As Qatar gears up to welcome the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar Tourism has many milestones to achieve, promises to keep and dreams to realize. HN exclusively chatted with Berthold Trenkel, COO of Qatar Tourism, to learn more about the country’s preparations ahead of one of the most high-profile sports event of the world and to highlight the growth and opportunities in the country’s hospitality scene.
How is Qatar working toward positioning itself as a regional and a global attraction?
Our goal at Qatar Tourism is to establish the country as a world-leading destination and welcome more than six million visitors a year by 2030. As of 12 July 2021, we re-opened our borders to international travelers who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with vaccines that are approved for use by the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar. The new arrangements enable fully vaccinated people to bypass quarantine when returning to Qatar but all visitors – vaccinated or unvaccinated – are required to undertake a PCR test up to 72 hours prior to travel. With over 80 countries on our visa-free list, Qatar is one of the easiest destinations to visit. The country is constantly evolving to ensure visitors have a seamless and unforgettable trip. With a host of new hotels and hotel apartments, activities and attractions, travelers will discover the country’s unique blend of Middle Eastern contemporary luxury and authentic tradition.
Currently, there are over 100 hotels and hotel apartments in Qatar’s construction pipeline on top of an existing 184+ properties. The country is also evolving its transport facilities including the metro and taxis that make getting to and around Qatar easy, safe and convenient.
Are you focusing on the cultural aspect of the country or highlighting it as a modern destination?
We promote Qatar as a combination of cultural authenticity, heritage and modernity, an exciting destination for every type of traveler. Qatar is the safest country in the world according to Numbeo (2020). It is cosmopolitan, while rich in Middle Eastern art, culture, and tradition. With a range of assets including world-class hotels, restaurants, stunning beaches, and a bustling atmosphere, we offer the best of the region all in one easily accessible place. While Qatar has a thriving arts and culture scene, with a range of museums, natural landmarks and public art installations, the country also offers beach escapes, city breaks, thrill-seeking adventures, family-fun and romantic getaways.
Do you have a specific tourism vision? What are your objectives and goals?
As already mentioned, we’re working toward establishing Qatar as a world-leading destination and welcoming more than six million visitors a year by 2030. To achieve this, we are diversifying and building our appeal for residents and visitors across the country, with guests at the heart of everything we do.
Do you plan on turning tourism into a diversified economic revenue stream?
Qatar’s National Vision 2030 was established in 2008 to diversify the economy, transform Qatar into a developed country, and achieve sustainable development. Tourism plays an integral role in the drive towards a diversified economy; we envision that tourism will grow at nearly two times the total GDP over the next 10 years for Qatar; hence the importance of tourism in the country.
We are undertaking an extensive tourism development which has seen us invest in world class infrastructure and major development projects. Qatar currently has over 100 hotels and hotel apartments in the construction pipeline as we gear up to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Our focus at Qatar Tourism is to encourage all types of travelers from around the world to travel to Qatar, to discover and enjoy our country. We want people to experience our vibrant atmosphere while enjoying the best of Middle Eastern hospitality.
How will the GCC reconciliation boost your tourism and hospitality revenue?
Qatar welcomed over one million visitors and travelers from surrounding countries before May 2017. Now that borders have reopened to fully vaccinated travelers from around the world, we welcome back everyone to visit and enjoy the best of the country.
How ready are you to welcome the FIFA World Cup 2022 in terms of hotel room inventory, entertainment, etc.?
We are expecting to welcome around 1.5 million visitors for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
Ahead of the tournament, Qatar has invested in exceptional sports stadiums and facilities all within easy reach of each other, such as the new Education City Stadium and Al Rayyan Stadium. The longest distance between stadiums is 75 km by road, meaning fans will be able to attend more than one match a day and stay in the same accommodation throughout. There will also be large fan zones for the World Cup that will offer a wide variety of food and beverages. The zones will be situated in locations around the country, including a dedicated fan zone opening as part of the new West Bay North Beach project.
The project includes 13 new beaches, a multitude of exciting leisure and entertainment facilities and a range of kiosks. Located in Qatar’s business district of West Bay, the project will become one of Qatar’s leading destinations for leisure, dining and entertainment.
At Qatar Tourism, we have recently appointed a new international markets team to cover 20 key countries, and we are looking into every opportunity to expand experiences so everyone, including football fans, will enjoy Qatar.
Did the Covid-19 pandemic create delays?
Since the closure of our borders in March 2020, Qatar has spent the time investing in new and existing tourism assets as well as implementing world-leading health and safety measures.
To maximize the safety of our citizens, we launched the “Qatar Clean” program across all hotels and sectors in the country, in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH). This best-in-class hygiene and safety scheme covers social distancing, frequent sanitization of surfaces, touchless payments and more, to ensure a safe experience in hotels, shopping malls, health clubs and salons. Last month we were delighted to announce that all Qatar Tourism licensed hotels were certified ‘Qatar Clean’ meaning they implement the highest standards in hygiene and cleanliness with rigorous procedures in place.
Additionally, passengers arriving at Hamad International Airport (HIA) will undergo thermal screening and temperature checks. HIA was the first airport in the Middle East and Asia to be awarded a five-Star COVID-19 Airport Safety Rating by Skytrax, following an on-site audit.
What is the role that Qatar Tourism is playing and what are your strategies for the coming years?
Our strategy aims to triple the number of pre-pandemic annual international visitors to over six million a year by 2030. We’re investing in world-class infrastructure to create a dynamic and more diversified economy beyond oil, driving the development of the private sector and fields such as tourism to become an integral component of national GDP.
Our role at Qatar Tourism is to continue to evolve our experiences by promoting new hotels and hotel developments, theme parks, restaurants, shops, and major leisure projects in the lead up, at and beyond the FIFA World Cup 2022. We are working to lay the foundation for guests to have a safe, exciting and unforgettable experience while in Qatar.