Interview: Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

To what extent has the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the blockade had a tangible impact on the sector’s long-term outlook?

SHEIKH NASSER BIN ABDULRAHMAN AL THANI: One trend we have seen as a result of the pandemic is that many families are trying to find independent, separate homes instead of living in more traditional, shared residences. This has boosted both sales and rentals in the market. Another consequence of the pandemic was that the lack of international travel helped increase local tourism. Domestic tourists helped to boost occupancy rates, from 54% in the first half of 2020 to 60% in the second half of 2021. This resulted in a lot more expenditure in the local market, which had a positive impact from a development point of view, as well as on projects under construction.

However, the closure of factories around the world and other supply chain disruptions had a negative effect on the raw materials used for construction that are imported from abroad. These factors delayed materials coming into the country. Some factories producing Covid-19 tests and personal protective equipment had to shut down or were overwhelmed, affecting the labour market. Moreover, shipping rates have almost tripled or even quadrupled since the close of 2019, which also had an impact on the construction industry. Nevertheless, things have greatly improved overall, and processes are being streamlined.

How are the authorities working to attract foreign investment in real estate, especially from outside the Gulf region?

AL THANI: Investors are always looking for safe investment opportunities that provide solid returns, and Qatar is appealing in this sense. Foreign investment in apartments has increased by 50-60% in recent years. There is not much interest in villas because foreigners tend to choose mixed-use apartment complexes for investment purposes. The rules of permanent residency and long-term residency provide international investors with the security of having a second residence that they can visit at any time. Thanks to the country’s safe environment and other strengths, Qatar is an attractive location to have a second home. The country also has a strong education system that appeals to international investors with families who are looking for long-term investments and residency opportunities.

What are the key drivers of demand for luxury real estate in the local market?

AL THANI: The real estate sector in general – and especially the luxury market – has a promising future and presents attractive opportunities. One of the unique products set to come on-line is Qetaifan Island North, which will become one of the largest entertainment centres in the region. Notably, this project has attracted the attention of expatriates, foreigners and citizens. Indeed, almost 20% of the serviced villa plots were sold to non-locals.

In what ways does the 2022 FIFA World Cup offer opportunities for residential and leisure real estate, both during the event and after?

AL THANI: The 2022 FIFA World Cup is a powerful marketing tool for the country, and it has the potential to bolster Qatar as an attractive destination for both tourism and investment. Countries have largely reaped rewards for years after holding the competition. For example, certain host nations did not traditionally enjoy a reputation as a tourist or investment destination prior to holding the World Cup, but visitors attending the matches came to see they had much to offer. Qatar must do its part to make the most of this hosting opportunity to establish a positive reputation in the international tourism, real estate and investment landscape.