With an already well-established hospitality sector and strong growth in tourist arrivals, Qatar is witnessing many major global hotel chains entering and expanding. But what are the long term growth prospects post-2022 and what challenges lie ahead? Hotel News ME investigates.
It is with good reason that Qatar’s hospitality industry has blown up over the past few years. Gearing up to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the government is busy establishing initiatives, investment and infrastructure plans to make the country a key contender in the Middle East. With the hospitality sector in Qatar significantly focused on high-end luxury and business travel with 4- and 5-star hotels dominating the market, a gap remains for budget and mid-market accommodation to blossom.
As part of the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, there has been a great deal of investment in the hotel market and in order to accommodate the desired seven million international tourist arrivals per year, there will have to be a significant increase in the number of hotels within the country. Currently, the high-end of the market is well catered for, as Qatar is often seen as a luxury destination and according to BMI research, it is estimated that the luxury segment grew as much as 75% between 2009 and 2014, whereas the midscale portion increased by just 22%.
The hosting of international events diversifies the visitor profile and presents a case for the development of the budget and mid-range segments, as demonstrated with the introduction of Premier Inn and Mercure, which have two and one property in the pipeline, respectively. But despite encouraging growth in arrivals, receipts and hotel numbers, the average length of stay in Qatar is well and truly stuck at 1.24 nights as reported in the BMI Qatar Tourism Report 2016;this is a reflection of a visitor profile dominated by the business traveller. In order to compete with the well-developed tourism industries of its regional neighbours, Qatar will need to increase the length of time people stay in the country, as this will have a beneficial effect on receipts and encourage further investment into the sector.
- In early November 2015 Hilton Worldwide announced the opening of Doubletree by Hilton Doha – Old Town, a 5-star property with 187 guest rooms. The hotel is the first in Qatar under the Doubletree brand and increases Hilton’s presence in the country to two properties.
- In October 2015, AccorHotels, announced plans to open a 283-room hotel in Doha. The Majilis Grand Mercure which is scheduled for opening in mid-2018 and will be AccorHotels seventh property in the country.
- In late October 2015, the Qatar Tourism Authority launched the Qatar Destination brand at the World Travel Market in London. The brand uses multimedia platforms to market the country as a destination for travellers and to reinforce Qatar’s presence on the global stage.
- Qatar recently signed an agreement with Oman to strengthen tourism cooperation between the two countries. The deal will include tourist entry visas between the countries, in a bid to enhance inter-tourism.
- Qatar Airways has announced the opening of new flights direct from the UK to Doha. Eight flights each week will now link the capital city to Birmingham Airport, only the fourth city in the UK to do so. It is estimated over 100,000 people will be able to travel between the two cities each year.
Tourist Arrivals: On the up according to BMI Qatar Tourism Report
Qatar’s inbound tourism total is expected to rise by 7.18% over the course of 2016 as well as increasing the ability and demand for tourism into the country, there has also been work done to make it easier to enter. The government has made moves to increase travel from the Asia Pacific market by decreasing bureaucracy, such as in Taiwan where travellers can now apply for visas online. Work with the GCC has also led to a Gulf-wide visa that allows for a Schengen style travel within participating countries, making travel within the region much easier and more convenient. Europe and America will remain the dominant source markets for Qatar in general.
Growth in the longer term will be aided by further international events providing an influx of tourists, but beyond this there are significant plans in place in order to strengthen all aspects of the industry.
The National Tourism Strategy 2030 has been implemented by the Qatar Tourism Authority to help drive a cohesive, national campaign to boost infrastructure, marketing, and accessibility in order to increase absolute tourist numbers. Total arrivals in 2019 will reach 3.899m, up from 2.918m in 2015.