Qatar’s $300 billion investment to boost tourism, will it pay off?

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Qatar is rolling out the red carpet for an expected total in excess of one million visitors for the FIFA World Cup and is aiming to attract up to six million a year by 2030.

Doha is a city with one of the fastest-growing hotel and hospitality markets in the world. The $220 billion spent on infrastructure since the successful World Cup bid of 2010 has helped boost the industry. Hotels have also been helped by the country’s geographic location.

According to the latest government figures, 80% of the world’s population is within a six-hour flight from Qatar. Over 150 new hotels have been built for the FIFA World Cup, and all of these expect to welcome tourists for years to come.

One of those new hotels is Pullman Doha West Bay, which is owned by the French multinational group Accor, it opened in August, with 460 rooms and suites ready to welcome guests. The hospitality industry has been seeing a strong rebound of demand back to pre-pandemic levels, and Accor is keen to capitalise on that.

The group’s CEO, Sébastien Bazin, explained how the company plans to do that to Euronews.

“Accor is opening one hotel per day on this planet, and it will continue to do so. So expand and control density and market share. Accor is the largest hotel company outside America and China, and I want Accor to remain number one outside China and America. So it’s between being disciplined, caretaking for the people working for Accor, making sure you have the right brands, and making sure you’re going to be preparing yourself for maybe some difficult times.”

Another hotel in Qatar that’s hosting some very important guests this month is the Ritz Carlton Doha. The luxury hotel and its 374 rooms and suites have been welcoming people in the country for 20 years.

Euronews was given special access to see what it’s like inside an award-winning, luxurious hotel and find out what it takes to make VIPs feel at home.

The Ritz Carlton Doha knows how to make strong and lasting first impressions. A team of dedicated hoteliers and service staff runs the hotel like a well-oiled machine, but there’s nothing robotic about its hospitality.

The staff here is led by the General Manager Carlo Javakhia, who says the secret to award-winning hospitality is to always go that extra mile.

“It’s all about the human touch. It’s all about the personalities, creating the vibe, and being welcoming and this should be something natural. With our brand, it’s not all about transactions. We look into creating real relationships, where the guest can feel that they have someone, from the moment they check in until the moment they check out, there is always someone they can raise their concerns with, they can ask for assistance, and they feel comfortable.”

The COVID-19 pandemic shed more than $130 billion in revenues from the global hospitality sector. But since then, demand at the Ritz has been more robust than ever and looking beyond the FIFA World Cup, Carlo and his team are anticipating even busier days ahead.

So, after a tricky time right across the sector – whether it’s a tropical-themed swimming pool, a relaxing spa, or just a warm welcome – hotel bosses all over the world know that the business and the art of making people happy has never been more important.

When Qatar won the World Cup bid in 2010, most of the city of Lusail wasn’t built. Now, it’s home to luxury hotels, a million square metre shopping mall, the Formula One race track, and the stadium that will host the World Cup final.

Euronews spoke to Dr. Jeremias Kettner, senior advisor at InStrat, a Qatar-based, independent research and advisory platform, and asked him about the tourism sector and what it will look like in years to come.

“We should not forget that the World Cup is only one point in the long history of Qatar as a hub for sports, mega-events, and all kinds of cultural activities, all of which makes it an attractive tourist destination today.

“The development of Qatar follows its strategy to position itself as a cultural hub and tourist destination. According to the Economic Intelligence Unit, Qatar’s economy will grow by 5.5% in 2022. That’s remarkable, with dwindling numbers elsewhere in the world. A German newspaper just recently wrote on the occasion of the visit of our Chancellor Scholz to Doha – “Whoever ignores Qatar will lose.” And I think they might be right with that analysis.” Concludes Dr. Kettner.

Qatar’s tourism sector continues to witness a strong recovery with more than 729,000 international visitors in the first half of 2022, marking a 19% increase compared to the full year of 2021. And their aim is to raise tourism to 12% of GDP by 2030.

So, after tough times, optimism is back in the hotel sector once again. Growth is happening. Companies are busy. Global economic uncertainty does still lie ahead, but this is a resilient sector, staffed with people who are committed to solving problems with energy, innovation, and ambition.

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