Qatar has set its sights on becoming a global meetings destination of note, investing more than US$20 billion in tourism-related infrastructure that will boost its MICE credentials.
The state has identified the meetings industry as a key pillar of economic diversification and growth and with this in mind, is rolling out venues, hotels, world-class aviation facilities and high-profile events that will command the attention of influential meeting and event planners globally.
Qatar’s ambition as a global meetings hub is underlined by its major presence at the upcoming Gulf Incentives, Business, Travel and Meetings (GIBTM), which takes place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from 24-26 March 2014.
To bolster its exposure further still, the QTA is one of the regional National Tourism Offices (NTOs) supporting a brand new post-show familiarisation trip programme which will involve tours, designed to provide GIBTM’s Hosted Buyers with an insight into the latest business and meetings facilities offered in Qatar.
“Qatar’s position as a convention destination of growing global prowess, is evident having moved up 49 places to reach 111th position in the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) league table of busiest global meetings cities for 2012,” noted GIBTM Exhibition Manager Lois Hall.
“A multi-billion dollar investment plan earmarked for tourism-related projects will surely promote Qatar further up the rankings and attract the interest of global meeting planners seeking world-class facilities, such as GIBTM’s select group of influential Hosted Buyers from Europe, Asia and The Americas.”
Qatar’s travel and tourism sector currently contributes $3.4 billion to GDP directly, the equivalent to 1.8% of economic activity, according to the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC), but the industry’s total contribution (direct and indirect) is nearer $13 billion or 6.7% of GDP. The WTTC anticipates sector growth of 7.1% in 2013 and an annual average of 4% growth between 2013 and 2023.
The destination is already skewed heavily towards meetings business given the industry accounted for 72% of all visitors to the state in 2011, according to Oxford Economics, plus the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) has confirmed the MICE segment is “by far the largest piece of the tourism pie”.
Infrastructure developments designed to drive more business visitors to Qatar are wide-ranging and include the $15 billion Hamad International Airport (formerly known as New Doha International Airport), with the first phase set to open by the end of the year and the facility expected to be fully operational by 2020.
In addition, $25 billion been has allocated for railway construction and a further $6 billion has been allotted for a new Doha port project to include a cruise ship terminal.
Venue-wise the new Doha Exhibition & Convention Centre will provide 29,000 square metres of conference space when it opens in Q1, 2014, plus 110 hotels are under construction in Qatar, adding a further 19,931 rooms to the current 13,407 room inventory.
Further new hotel and venue announcements are anticipated as Qatar gears up to stage one of the world’s highest-profile sporting events – the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. To cater to the event, Qatar will build nine new stadiums and renovate three, with the 12 venues divided among seven host cities (Doha, Al-Daayen, Al-Khor, Al-Rayyan, Al-Shamal, Al-Wakrah and Umm Slal).
In addition to the post-event familiarisation initiative, GIBTM 2014 will also include Business Travel @ GIBTM featuring specialist exhibitors within the Business Travel Zone, a dedicated Business Travel Knowledge programme and exclusive networking opportunities for this specific sector.
Other initiatives include the first-ever GIBTM-hosted ‘Market Focus on Asia’ event along with a dedicated Asia Pavilion; and the sourceme Pavilion, in partnership with Nicholas Publishing InternationaI (NPI), which will showcase the region’s leading event service suppliers.
Photo caption: Skyline of Doha, Qatar.