Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

10 May, 2004

Qatar Unveils US$20 billion Tourism Development Projects

DOHA, Qatar — While the high profile Dubai gets much of the publicity related to its tourism development plans, its fellow emirate of Doha is seeking to catch up, and fast.

Between 1-2 May, Qatar became the first Gulf country to host the annual summit of the World Travel and Tourism Council, the rich-man’s club of nearly 100 chief executives of multinational travel companies.

It took that opportunity to announce a US$ 15-20 billion investment in a master plan of beach resorts, luxury hotels, cultural projects, international sports facilities and new international airport.

Mr Akbar Al Baqr, who heads both the Qatar national tourism authority as well as the national airline Qatar Airways, said the plan is designed to position Qatar as a leading destination for the high-end tourist market and grow annual arrivals from 400,000 today to more than one million in 2010.

The investment represents one of the largest investments in tourism facilities in this region, he said. “Qatar is well known for retaining its rich Arabic culture, and this master plan will ensure that visitors and tourists will be able to share in our rich heritage.

“There will be significant investment in cultural facilities that will open the doorway to our Qatari culture, including a new landmark Public Library, a Museum of Islamic Arts, the promotion of Qatar’s many historic forts and the redevelopment of Qatar’s National Museum.”

Also in the cards is a major festival of culture, entertainment and education showcasing Qatar’s heritage as well as its vision for the future.

The plan projects the development of eight four- and five-star hotels by mid 2006, including brand-names like the Shangri-la, Rotana, Hilton, Four Seasons, Marriott and Renaissance. They will add a massive 2,550 rooms to the country’s hotal capacity.

New conference and sporting facilities like a new aquatic centre, a large sports hall and an additional indoor sports hall are being added in preparation for the 2006 Asian Games. The emirate presently hosts a number of other annual sporting events, such as the Qatar Masters Golf, the Qatar Tennis Open and the Qatar Airways Squash Challenge.

Other elements of the plan include:

<> A 32 sq km beach development, comprising of 10 hotels, two golf courses, 3,000 lifestyle villas, 12,000 apartments, 300,000 sq metres of retail shopping, and 6 million sq m of commercial space. Construction will begin in early 2005.

<> A 4 sq km island with 7,600 high quality dwellings, three luxury hotels with more than 900 rooms, four marinas with spaces for more than 700 boats, and a variety of community and entertainment areas. Opening: 2006.

<> A 45,000 sq m Museum of Islamic Arts, which will showcase some of the world’s best Islamic Art. The museum will contain exhibitions, a study and a library, galleries, gardens and a restaurant. Opening: 2006.

<> A landmark National Library with a natural history museum, art galleries, conference and lecture halls, cafeterias and restaurants. Opening: 2006.

<> A Photography Museum that will include 11,000 sq m of photography galleries, camera galleries, temporary galleries, workshops, conference hall, cafeteria, restaurant and shop. Opening: 2007.

<> A new US$5 billion international airport which will open in 2008 and by the time it is fully developed in 2015, will have an annual capacity of 50 million passengers.

To develop feed for these projects, Mr. Al Baqr is also stepping on the gas of the national airline with plans for 20 new destinations by 2005. That will give it a total of 70 destinations across five continents and make it nearly as large as THAI Airways is today.

At last week’s Arabian Travel Market, he announced new services to Osaka, Tehran and Johannesburg that will begin by January 2005. These are in addition to Luxor, Istanbul, Zurich and Kabul which Qatar Airways plans to launch this year.

This growth is providing simultaneous opportunities for financial institutions like the Qatar National Bank which in 2003 provided more than US $6.3 billion in loans and advances for projects directly and indirectly related to travel and tourism.

The bank helped the financing of Qatar Airways purchase of 11 Airbus aircraft, a US $100 million term loan it structured and syndicated for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as well as Doha’s City Centre Shopping Mall.

Chief Executive, Saeed Al Misnad, says it’s keen to boost that amount significantly. In addition to the large scale projects, he sees related growth for the retail banking sector to help guests conduct a wide range of travel-related payments and transactions.

There will be opportunities for Thai companies to get involved in the growth. Last April, Qatar Airways and THAI signed a codeshare agreement that will link their two route-nets. The agreement was signed by Mr. Al Baqr and THAI’s Executive Vice President Commercial Mr Suthep Suebsantiwongse.

The codeshare agreement allows both airlines to carry each other’s passengers between Doha and Bangkok. As THAI does not yet fly to Doha, Qatar Airways will initially be carrying Thai Airways’ passengers between the two cities and onto the Qatar Airways network.

“This agreement continues our strategy to build a network of strategic alliances with the world’s other leading airlines,” said Mr Al Baqr.

Comments are closed.