Interview: Hassan Abdulrahman Al Ibrahim
How do you foresee supply and demand of hotel rooms developing? Is there a risk of an oversupply of rooms after the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar?
HASSAN ABDULRAHMAN AL IBRAHIM: QTA closely monitors tourist accommodation to ensure that the private sector is meeting market needs without overdeveloping. We have found that occupancy rates across all hotels held steady, remaining above 70% from 2014 to 2015 despite 20 new hotel establishments opening.
We recognise that the number of visitors will peak during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and our strategy aims to deliver everything needed for a successful World Cup while safeguarding all the local and foreign investors by ensuring that they only build what can be sustained over time. We have encouraged developers to diversify the accommodation on offer by increasing the number of two-, three- and four-star hotels available, so as to appeal to all kinds of travellers. There is also an increasing supply of furnished apartments coming online in the coming years, some of which will be reclassified as tourist accommodation for the duration of the World Cup.
Lastly, we have a plan to use cruise ships as temporary accommodation that will supplement the existing inventory of hotel rooms. This plan comes as part of the Old Doha Port renewal project, which will also form a major transformation and tourist attraction.
With an estimated $45bn earmarked for tourism-related projects up to 2030, what investments is QTA prioritising?
AL IBRAHIM: The Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy sets a clear path of development for the sector through to 2030 by identifying four key focus areas: urban and family entertainment, business, cultural and sports tourism. With the strategy as a guide, QTA and our partners in the public and private sectors are intensifying efforts to showcase Qatari and Arab culture through heritage sites and contemporary museums, and promote urban experiences such as shopping, dining and indoor entertainment venues for individuals and families alike. Lastly, our portfolio of year-round expos, shows, conferences and business events is being expanded. Qatar already hosts scores of international events in first-class exhibition and conference venues, and is carving a place for itself on the global map as a premium destination for business events.
Given that a substantial portion of visitors come from the GCC region, how is QTA aiming to increase market share in this particular segment?
AL IBRAHIM: Neighbouring countries are our most important source markets of tourists, with the GCC supplying 44% of our visitors in 2015. This is due in large part to Qatar’s offering of family-friendly entertainment, which appeals to Arab and Gulf sensibilities. We have already taken important steps to further intra-GCC tourism, through initiatives such as the Cruise Arabia Alliance, which is a regional alliance established to create exceptional cruise itineraries that showcase the best of the Gulf’s landscape and attract tourists from around the world.
How is QTA acting to increase the tourism industry’s share of Qatar’s non-hydrocarbons GDP?
AL IBRAHIM: Tourism is playing an increasingly pivotal role in diversifying Qatar’s economy, acting as a shield from oil price fluctuations. QTA projects that the tourism sector’s total contribution to the country’s economy will reach 5.2% by 2030, and form up to 9.7% of Qatar’s non-hydrocarbons economy. So far we have averaged an 11.5% annual increase in visitor arrivals over the past five years (2010-15). To keep up with this growing demand, we are working to diversify and expand our tourism offering and generate more tourism spending, with a target of 7m visitors by 2030 and a projected visitor spend of $17.8bn.
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