Qatar gets the nod for events

New business hotels, modern event venues and good air connectivity are boosting Qatar’s chances with planners

Doha’s ultra modern cityscape

As a swathe of internationally-branded hotels geared towards the business market open, and more innovative attractions and activities emerge, Qatar is positioning itself as an attractive destination for business meetings and incentive travel.

Huge efforts are being ploughed into transforming Qatar into a tourist destination, with the government outlining the industry as a major player in its Qatar National Vision 2030, and the business events market’s potential is being realised.

Doha’s ultra modern cityscape

Gerhard Stutz, general manager of Dusit Doha Hotel, which opened its doors in April, said: “The Qatar government is leaving no stone unturned in making the tourist journey in Qatar one of the most cherished.”

As part of the push, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) launched the country’s first global destination campaign to highlight visitor experiences, and celebrate the nation’s heritage last year. The campaign has being rolled out across 15 existing and target markets, with the goal of reaching more than 250 million travellers.

As part of this, QNTC is aiming to capture business event travellers. Added Stutz: “There are exciting opportunities on the horizon as QNTC works towards enhancing the MICE sector.”

Ahmed Al Obaidli, director of exhibitions at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said Qatar was awarded the rights to host six major business events between 2019 and 2022, last year. This year, it will host the World Corporate Games – the first time it has been held in the Middle East – and is expected to attract about 8,000 participants.

Al Obaidli added that Qatar offers a variety of authentic experiences, including explorations of archaeological sites, forts and towers, as well as helicopter rides and a variety of city and desert tours that can be curated for incentive groups.

Qatar’s rich seafaring heritage can also be explored with a cruise along Doha’s shoreline in a traditional wooden dhow boat, and camel racing and a 4WD dune-bashing adventure can be carried out in the southern desert. There is also a range of watersport activities along Doha’s coastline.

The nation is also home to a range of sophisticated convention and exhibition facilities.

The Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) features a 4,000-seat conference hall, 2,300-seat theatre, three auditoriums and several meeting spaces. The centre also offers 40,000m2 of column-free exhibition space across nine halls, providing seating for up to 10,000 delegates.

Meanwhile, Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre spans 90,000m2 spread across five pillarless halls, capable of seating more than 34,000 visitors.

Several of the destination’s heritage sites also provide a unique setting for business events, such as the Katara Cultural Village and the Museum of Islamic Art.

Stutz noted that with the country gearing up to host the FIFA World Cup 2022, a range of state-of-the-art infrastructure is being developed, which will help raise the destination’s profile globally.

He added: “Aside from its globally trending monuments and cultural heritage, Qatar boasts of hosting global trade fairs and conferences, which make it one of the most lucrative destinations for business travellers, where they can double up for their work, as well as plan some leisure activities.”

And Qatar’s tourism and business events potential is drawing investors. Thailand’s Centara Hotels recently opened Centara West Bay Residences and Suites in Doha, and a second 509-key Centara Grand property is slated to open in the same city before 1Q2020.

Markland Blaiklock, Centara’s deputy chief executive, said: “We want to develop in the region as we saw a great opportunity. Its location is the gateway between two continents and has an exotic nature. Taking buggy rides to bash the dunes isn’t something you can do anywhere.”

He added that while tourism is still in its infancy – in 2018, the country welcomed two million visitors – the potential is there.

Blaiklock remarked: “The government has an appetite to stage events. I think Doha can position itself as a great MICE destination.”

While Dubai remains the top choice in the Middle East for business events, Blaiklock observed that many corporates are now seeking somewhere different. He said: “People are looking for new places to go. Qatar is interesting, affordable, easy to get to, and somewhere that provides choices and alternative activities.”

Qatar’s connectivity is another selling point, with it serving as a major transit hub between the east and west. The government has eased visa restrictions for many nationalities and Qatar Airways operates its QMICE arm, a one-stop-shop for meeting and incentive planners and conference organisers.

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