Interview: Hassan Al Ibrahim

What potential does the tourism sector have to make a greater contribution to the economy?

HASSAN AL IBRAHIM: Since the launch of the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy (QNTSS) in early 2014, the contribution of the tourism sector to the national economy has grown significantly. Qatar’s leadership has identified tourism as a priority sector in the National Development Plan (NDP) 2017-22, which aims to consolidate economic diversification efforts.

QTA launched a strategy review in April 2017 in partnership with local public and private sector entities to ensure full alignment with the NDP. This process gave rise to QNTSS: Next Chapter 2017-23, which will guide the public and private sectors towards fulfilling the potential of Qatar’s tourism sector through strategic, operational and governance-related measures.

With an expected decrease in regional tourists, what new markets will QTA focus on?

AL IBRAHIM: QTA has long recognised the need to diversify our visitor source markets to ensure the sector is not reliant on one visitor segment. We have been working on this through our planning, product development and promotion efforts. New policies include introducing a free, 96-hour transit visa. Performance data covering the first three quarters of 2017 shows our efforts are on track, with 8% growth in European arrivals and 4% growth in arrivals from the Americas, while visitors from Africa grew by 32% year-on-year.

To continue attracting visitors from a variety of source markets, QTA has stepped up marketing efforts via our network of international representative offices in Beijing, Turkey, Singapore, the UK, the US, Germany, France and Italy. In addition, in August 2017 we announced the waiving of visa requirements of more than 80 countries, making Qatar the most open country in the region. We also launched an Electronic Travel Authorisation system that allows eligible visitors of all nationalities to obtain a visa on arrival in Qatar. We will continue to explore new policies to make Qatar more accessible for visitors from different source markets.

How will policies ensure that the sector sustains continued growth post-2022?

AL IBRAHIM: As we turn the pages of the Next Chapter we will begin the implementation of a five-year plan that ensures Qatar is ready to welcome the world in 2022 and beyond. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is an opportunity to propel the tourism industry forwards and we are capitalising on it in every way. At the same time, we have to ensure that the industry grows in a way that is sustainable, and that no developments result in white elephants that harm investors or the industry.

On the hospitality development front, we are closely monitoring tourism accommodation stock and pipeline projects to ensure the private sector meets projected market needs without overdeveloping. We are working with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy to develop a range of tools so that Qatar can deliver everything needed for a successful World Cup, while also safeguarding local and foreign investments. We are working very closely with relevant stakeholders to guarantee that everything put in place for the World Cup has a role in the tourism value chain post-2022.

What specific steps are being taken to develop the cultural components of Qatar’s tourism?

AL IBRAHIM: Qatar has many world-renowned cultural treasures, such as the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Village and the highly anticipated National Museum of Qatar. Some of these need to be better connected to other tourism hotspots to maximise the tourist’s experience, which is why the Next Chapter outlines several initiatives to create better synergy between cultural, tourism and other entities. Increased private sector investment in historical sites, art galleries and unique public spaces will showcase Qatar’s heritage and provide authentic experiences for our visitors.