EconomyTop Stories
GBO_Qatar Tourism

Is tourism Qatar’s new cash cow? Country sees significant spike in arrivals

Qatar will also host the Geneva International Motor Show in Doha every two years over the next decade

The total number of inbound visitors reached about 382000 in April 2024, thereby recording an annual increase of 17.9% (compared to April 2023), and a monthly increase of 16.3% (compared to March 2024).

The highest number of visitors was from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member nations at 42%. The people arriving via air made up the highest percentage with 55% of the total number of visitors, according to the new issue of the “Qatar; Monthly Statistics” bulletin released by the National Planning Council.

The good news comes amid the reports of the Gulf country planning to liberalise its hospitality industry to build on the record number of arrivals in the nation since it hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

“We will try to liberate the hospitality sector and remove any obstacles. We have many restrictions on hotels regarding operating hours and licensing,” said Saad bin Ali Al Kharji, the chairman of Qatar Tourism, while interacting with Bloomberg.

While analysts apprehended that the Gulf nation’s tourism industry having a hard time post the FIFA World Cup euphoria, on which the nation spent over USD 300 billion, the reverse happened, as Qatar welcomed four million visitors in 2023, a 39% increase over the World Cup year.

As per Al Kharji, 2024 has also started on a strong note, with Doha clocking a record 700,000 visitors in January, as it hosted the AFC Asian Cup soccer tournament. The city, which has 39,000 hotel rooms, had an occupancy rate of 75% in the first quarter of the year.

About 44% of tourists came from neighbouring Gulf nations, he said, while arrivals from Europe, the United States and Asia also witnessed surges.

The Gulf nation sees sporting events as a potential means to ensure steady tourist arrivals in its jurisdiction in the coming years. After successfully hosting the Middle East’s first-ever FIFA World Cup, the country is now looking to exploit its permanent spot on the Formula 1 racing calendar under a 10-year deal that started in 2023.

Doha will host the FIFA Arab Cup in June 2024, followed by the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2027. While the sporting events have helped draw thousands of fans, Al Kharji said Qatar is now aiming to lure families, medical tourists, and business travellers with a line-up of conferences and exhibitions.

Qatar will also host the Geneva International Motor Show in Doha every two years over the next decade. The 2023 edition was the first time the high-profile event was held outside Switzerland. Al Kharji further stated that the “Web Summit,” which brought 17,000 people to the city in February 2024, will be held in Qatar for the next four years.

The gas-rich nation is also rolling out an increasingly busy calendar of art, design and fashion events as part of the push to reach its target of six million international visitors annually by 2030, almost three times the number in 2019.

The Gulf nation also wants the tourism industry to contribute 12% to its GDP by 2030. Its regional peers too have similar ambitions. The United Arab Emirates, of which the Middle East’s tourist hub Dubai is a part, is now aiming to raise the sector’s contribution to the GDP to USD 122 billion by 2031, while Saudi Arabia is investing worth USD 1 trillion to promote itself as a destination.

“The World Cup affected the whole region and we see the Gulf Cooperation Council as one destination,” Al Kharji said, adding that Qatar recently partnered with Saudi Arabia for a “double your discovery” campaign that allows visitors to explore both countries in a single trip. A new Schengen-style visa, which will grant tourists access to all six GCC nations, is in the final stages of approval.

“Every nation in the GCC is growing its tourism, and we will complement each other,” the official concluded.

Related posts

Total plans to sell its stake in Northern Iraq oil field

GBO Correspondent

MENA Watch: Decoding Algeria’s resilient economy & growing regional influence

GBO Correspondent

Gain signs 11 partnerships to reduce service charges

GBO Correspondent