Qatar bids for more Asian tourists

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 October, 2010, 12:00am

The Qatar government, which has spent US$17 billion over the past three years on tourism infrastructure, plans to tap the rich source of tourists from Asia as it positions itself as a high-end leisure, business and sports' tourism location.

One in three tourists visiting Qatar last year was from Europe, compared with 16.3 per cent in 2004. Since it is located midway between Europe and Asia, in a bid to mitigate the impact of the softening economy in Europe on its tourism business, Qatar now aims to increase the percentage of Asian tourists to 20 per cent from 10 per cent at present, said Ahmed Abdullah Al Nuaimi chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority.

'We are closely tied to Asian countries economically as we are their major supplier of oil and gas while Asian companies, especially those from China, participate in a lot of the infrastructure projects in Doha,' he said.

To distinguish itself from other Gulf countries that are also dedicated to developing their attractions as international tourism locations, Qatar is positioning itself as an upmarket tourism, destination, especially targetting business travellers, who now account for 90 per cent of total visitors to the country.

The oil-rich nation started investing heavily in the tourism sector some seven years ago. Although tourism has yet to bring in a significant contribution to its gross domestic product, it has indeed increased international awareness by the magnitude of the investment it made to promote tourism.

On top of the US$17 billion investment, the US$14.5 billion Doha International Airport is set to open in 2012, which could handle 25 million passengers a year. The number of hotel rooms will also be increased to 29,000 by 2013 from 9,000 at present.

Qatar is also bidding to host the soccer World Cup in 2022 and plans to spend another US$100 billion hosting the event.