Aligned with Qatar’s new tourism strategy, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) signed a 17-month agreement with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to develop the policies, regulations and strategies needed to take Qatar’s booming tourism into the future.
Qatar is dramatically expanding the level, diversity, and quality of its tourism offerings. While progressing to ensure a successful World Cup in 2022, the UNWTO partnership shall further ensure that Qatar has a well-planned, high quality and reliable tourism industry meeting the expectations of the international travel trade.
While the country tourism sector thrives, QTA’s agreement with UNWTO also seeks to align the tourism boom with Qatar’s 2030 vision, ensuring that tourism is also sustainable.
Commenting on the initiative, H.E. Eng Mr. Issa Bin Mohammed Al-Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, said, “QTA has been hard at work creating an ambitious strategy to solidify Qatar’s position as a leading tourist destination and enhancing the quality and standards of international tourism for the nation. However, we are conscious of the importance of environmental sustainability for tourism development and as the regulator of industry standards and codes, we are taking the lead in ensuring sustainable growth and development of Qatar’s fast-growing tourism sector.”
UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, welcomed the agreement, as “an important step forward in developing Qatar’s tourism policies, legislative framework and institutional capacities.” He pointed out that “this agreement reflects the strategic priority afforded, by the Government of Qatar to tourism, as a driver of socio-economic development.” Mr. Rifai added that, “while Qatar has made strong headway and is firmly establishing itself as a prominent destination on the region’s tourism map, the activities contemplated in the agreement will translate into more competitive and varied tourism products and services and strengthen the sector’s sustainability, by enhancing its contribution to the human, social, economic and environmental development of Qatar.”
QTA’s overall tourism development strategy is aimed at lowering Qatar’s carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, and so also at protecting Qatar’s natural habitats, its wildlife and its marine reserves.
“We see these natural assets as forming important future tourist attractions in a well regulated and professional industry,” Mr. Al-Mohannadi added.
The phased approach includes creating a policy framework for the institution of regulations, standards, and codes of conduct for all activities and businesses related to tourism products and services; creating a policy framework, sustainability indicator instruments, and tourism environmental impact assessments which guide development planning and implementation of environmental sustainability practices in Qatar; and implementing guidelines for the creation of foreign and direct financial investment codes and policies for tourism in Qatar.
The initial phase will cover five major areas of tourist activities – desert safaris and camps; tour guides; tourism investment, event management companies; retail, wholesale, DMC and both inbound and outbound travel agencies and theme/ amusement parks. Phase two will cover destination marketing themes, hotel energy systems and related sustainability areas.
Qatar’s tourism sector grew 13% in the first quarter of 2013 as compared to 2012, fueled by a hotel boom. The hospitality sector plays a crucial role in the growth of tourism and Qatar’s hotel sector is growing at an incredible rate – 110 hotels were under construction last year, which when finished will offer 19,931 rooms to visitors. Last year, hotels in Qatar had a total capacity of 13,407 rooms.
“It is not only the number of rooms that is important, but also the quality, eco-sustainability and the diversity of choices across all grades and price levels,” Mr. Al-Mohannadi said.
As per industry reports, hospitality and leisure is the 3rd largest area of consumer consumption of carbon after homes and transport closely tracked by retail. “Hospitality has a significant foot print, which makes sustainability a key priority for QTA. Following our meeting with the UNWTO Secretary General in March, we have engaged the first UNWTO Consultant last week to operate as per our agreement and the timetable developed. Within a month, we will also be starting a series of development programs specifically aimed at Hotel Energy Solutions. Over the next six months QTA, with the UNWTO, shall introduce a wide range of environmental issues, topics and proposals to the industry,” Mr. Al-Mohannadi said.
Qatar enjoys an enormous advantage. The country has very few old hotels and as a result, cost, energy and water-saving technologies can be implemented from the start. “As the industry regulator, we urge a much wider implementation of green technology into all developments and hotel operations, as well as ethical procurement and use of certified suppliers,” Mr. Al- Mohannadi concluded.