WTTC Summit special: The Gulf state of Qatar has unveiled an ambitious plan for tourism development that will cost over $15 billion, and challenge the supremacy
of Dubai as the destination of choice for western tourists visiting the Gulf region for holidays and on business trips.
The scheme includes a new $5 billion international airport for Doha to be built on reclaimed land one third the size of the city.
The plans were outlined by Qatar Airways CEO, Mr. Akbar Al-Baker who is also chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority, at the WTTC Summit conference in Doha. “The initiatives in this new~Master Plan will position Qatar as a leading high-quality tourism destination, in accord with the forward thinking vision of our country’s leader, His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani,” said Al-Baker.
The Qatar development is aimed at luxury tourism and the internationalconference market. It includes eight new hotels graded four and five star, and making available an additional 2,550 rooms. Operators include some of the best-known international chains, Hilton, Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Marriott and Renaissance.
There will also be two beach resorts, the Al Fareej resort which will be a family-oriented village with Arabian style chalets and the Al Mafjar resort, an ultra-modern stylish luxury resort, built around a natural breakwater and lagoon.
“Qatar will offer the high end of the tourist market a fantastic travel experience of beach resorts, sun, expansive desert landscapes, a rich Arabian cultural heritage, prestigious hotels and extensive conference facilities, and major international sporting events, all in a very safe environment,” Mr Al-Baker explained to travel business leaders assembled for the fourth WTTC Summit.
Work has already begun on the first of two luxury lifestyle cities, Pearl of the Gulf, costing $2.5 billion and providing 7,600 high quality homes, three luxury hotels with over 900 rooms, four marinas with space for over 700 boats and a variety of community and entertainment areas.~ Work on the second, the North Beach development close to the existing Ritz-Carlton hotel, will begin next year and feature resort hotels, two golf courses, 3,000 lifestyle villas, and 12,000 apartments.
“These developments will take advantage of Qatar’s unspoiled naturalenvironment, its golden beaches and the warm turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf,” said Al-Baker. “A key feature of the Master Plan is the considerable amount of tourism development that will take place outside the city limits of Doha,” he said.
The Qatar National Bank is a partner in the development plan and is makingloans and advances to support the projects in Qatar’s travel and tourism sector. “There are a range of exciting new projects on the horizon, aimed at further solidifying Qatar’s tourism appeal, and QNB will eagerly go forward to pursue the financing opportunities they present,” said the banks’ CEO, Saeed Al Misnad. The bank had a key role in financing Qatar Airways’ recent purchase of 11 Airbus aircraft and the arrangement of loan finance for the building of the prestigious Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Mr. Al-Baker said tourism to Qatar was expected to more than double over the next six years, from the current 400,000 tourists who visited last year to more than one million by 2010. There will be a 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.
New sport facilities are also included in the plan. Qatar hosts a number of major sports events including the Qatar Masters Golf and the Qatar Open Tennis tournaments, and the Qatar Airways Squash Challenge. Qatar is also to host the 2006 Asian Games. “In preparation for these Games, we are redeveloping and upgrading all our existing sporting facilities and also developing a number of new world class venues. This work is being carried out under the auspices of the Doha Asian Games Organizing Committee and is progressing to plan,” said Al-Baker.