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Friday, April 19, 2024

Qatar – An Emerging Hospitality Hub

Qatar has emerged as a global market and has mended the image to the extent that today it is hosting FIFA World Cup. Qatar focused on its tourism and hospitality industry and with it attracted the world to look at them with a changed gaze. This, in it, holds many lessons for Pakistan's tourism industry.

Opinion |

Qatar has been an independent sovereign state since 1971. It is one of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and comprises an 11,500 sq. km peninsula extending towards the north into the Arabian Gulf with 563 km long uninterrupted coastline. The country’s population is 2.69 million with Doha as a capital city.

Qatar has become an emerging market due to its location and industries that it developed over the last two decades. The state of Qatar and its ruling leadership has made extraordinary efforts towards framework and legislations whether it is affirming to protect the human rights or inclusive society measures and the industrial development, Qatar today stands tall and pragmatic for the regional and international community.

The efforts across the peninsula have positive impact on all industries and communities employed and engaged in Qatar’s economy. Hospitality industry is no exception and measures taken by Qatar in this sector have enabled to win international accreditations and commendations from the global markets. The industry saw a major airlift when the leadership decided to structure the framework in 2008 and invested $17 billion in infrastructure projects including hotels, cultural sites, and sporting facilities.

This continuous sustained growth has enabled the state to win the FIFA World Cup 2022, a major world sporting event. It has also been ranked best destination in the Middle East for the second consecutive year by guest experience per ME report released by Olery, a hospitality & travel data provider.

Qatar’s hospitality industry is mainly comprised of hotels, restaurants, sporting facilities, and cultural tourism assets. The market is dominated 70% by four and five-star hotels that attract tourists mainly for business travel, transit, and leisure. Due to its location and the local population, Qatar has relied heavily on international tourists from multiple global regions. Apart from the European, CIS states, Americas and Asian markets, the state of Qatar’s hospitality industry was dependent on the neighboring GCC states for travel and trade.

Since the 2017 embargo and diplomatic challenges with the neighboring GCC states particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the hospitality industry saw a major decline in international tourists. However, the state’s determination to be self-reliant, the hospitality industry estimates to reach market growth of QR 5 billion ($1.5 Billion) with an aim of achieving total 50,000 hotel rooms in the market by the year 2022.

It is estimated by the tourism bodies that Qatar will employ more than 70,000 employees across 35 different tourism-related occupations.

The state is rich in Natural Gas, Crude Oil, Steel, and Petrochemical industry. However, the hospitality and tourism sector always played a major role in the state’s overall global perception while contributing to the economy. For the past decade, Qatar has decided to focus on tourism as one of its five key priority sectors in order to introduce diversity in economy for the future. The needle was pushed from relying on existing oil & gas assets to a self-reliance approach of creating a world-class hospitality and tourism hub that connects the global markets through an award-winning Qatar airline.

Despite the embargo from the other GCC states, Qatar has shown persistence and determination to continue to develop the country as the global hospitality destination. The National Tourism strategy plan 2030 is formed and implemented to accelerate the development and elevate the overall industry standards to attract an estimated 5 to 7 million tourists by 2023.

Productive and speedy measures were taken in terms of opening visas for easier entry access for many countries. Per the UNWTO report, Qatar today is the 8th most open country in the world in terms of ease of visas and first in the Middle East. New geographical zones were created and each zone’s development is tied to a tourism theme based on the characteristics and natural assets of that local area.

With all these development projects and expected growth, Qatar’s tourism bodies understood the need of developing human capacity in the industry to deliver the service through these mega projects and implemented human capital strategy as its key focus. It is estimated by the tourism bodies that Qatar will employ more than 70,000 employees across 35 different tourism-related occupations. This manpower will be bridged through attracting qualified skilled workers and investing in elevating the capacity of the existing workforce.

Read more: Qatar: A tourism game changer

It is important to learn how Qatar consistently and steadily moved towards building its hospitality industry and what Pakistan can learn from it. Critics will argue that it all happened due to being rich in Oil & Gas but one cannot ignore the fact that the state leadership had the vision to develop this industry and persistently worked hard over the past decade towards building this sector.

Obviously the oil & gas dollars made it easier for development but the money without the vision is of no use to any economy. Pakistan has also defined its focus since last year to develop the tourism industry as its key economic driver. However, Pakistan first needs to amend and revise its regulatory framework by involving all stakeholders in the industry.

Regulations across all tourism facilities and services should be governed by a system made of revised DTS( department of tourism services) act, executive regulations by National Tourism board, guidelines, and criteria by an agency to classify and grading of tourism and lodging services across the country. Qatar made this framework first as a transparent confidence-building measure and then attracted the investments in this sector and on its way to achieving the 2030 vision.

Hadi Pirzada is a hospitality consultant who has worked across Switzerland, Canada & Dubai. A graduate of Cesar Ritz Hotel School, Luzern, Switzerland and Brock Univ. Canada, he has worked in Global Sales & Marketing Operations with Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Marriott International, Starwood & Intercontinental Hotels and traveled extensively to tourist destinations as part of his responsibilities Twitter: @hadipirzada. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.