The importance of tourism in Qatar
Tourism has been identified by the country’s leadership as one of five priority sectors integral to diversifying Qatar’s economy and to increasing private sector participation.
Qatar offers experiences that combine old and new, the traditional with the modern. Thanks to Qatar’s strategic location at the crossroads of East and West, the country is on average 6-7 hours away from key international travel hubs.
80% of the world’s population is within a 6-hour flight from Qatar and more than two-thirds can enter Qatar visa-free.
Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030
On World Tourism Day 2017, HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the former Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, launched the Next Chapter of the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy, a five-year plan that places an enhanced end-to-end visitor experience at the heart of tourism development.
The Next Chapter’s targets are being achieved through:
- Visa facilitation policies and a message of welcome to the world.
- Diversified tourism offerings across 6 areas: coastal and desert tourism, cultural tourism, business events, sports tourism, urban and family entertainment, and cruise tourism.
- Balancing supply and demand in the hospitality sector and diversifying tourist accommodation options.
- Ensuring adequate professional capabilities across the sector.
- Streamlining regulation processes to encourage investment.
Investing in Qatar’s tourism sector
Qatar sees the involvement of international investors as critical to the development of a tourism industry that provides diverse and exceptional experiences. Investors that set up companies in Qatar will have a rare competitive edge, being among the first to start up in a fast-growing market.
To facilitate and incentivise foreign investments, there is a dedicated Investment Promotions Unit which works to liaise between investors, local and international talent, as well as government authorities. In addition, there is a new, electronic licensing system that fast-tracks the licensing process of tourism businesses. This system will soon be integrated into the broader Single Window initiative, which ties together all government services required by an investor in a one-stop-shop.
5 reasons Qatar’s tourism sector is attracting investors
- Stable investment environment
- Investment Promotions Unit at the Qatar National Tourism Council to facilitate connections and procedures
- New e-licensing system fast-tracks process for tourism businesses
- New incentives and forms of facilitation for foreign business owners
- Competitive edge: be among the first to start up in a growing market.
The visitor experience
Qatar Airways, the award-winning national carrier, travels to more than 150 destinations worldwide, including most major cities throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australasia & North and South America.
In addition to its role as Qatar Airways’ home base, Hamad International Airport serves more than 50 other international airlines.
Ease of access
New visa policies have resulted in Qatar becoming the most open country in the region, and the 8th most open in the world according to visa openness rankings released by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in August 2018.
This high ranking reflects a string of visa facilitation measures introduced by Qatar, including allowing nationals of 88 countries to enter Qatar visa-free and free of charge.
A diverse tourism offering
Cruise tourism brings over 100 thousand visitors a year to Qatar, enabling them to enjoy the many landmarks that are mere minutes from Doha Port, including Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Doha Corniche and the National Museum of Qatar. The peak season runs from October to May, allowing visitors to enjoy the country’s pleasant winter weather during that time.
Thanks to Qatar’s cruise visitor visas and streamlined disembarkation process, cruise visitors are able to immediately begin exploring the best the country has to offer as soon as their ship arrives.
A 2 billion QAR ($547 million) Doha Port redevelopment project is set to transform the port into a permanent cruise terminal and tourist attraction at the heart of the capital city. With the project’s completion and the associated capacity increase which will allow the port to receive two mega-ships at once, Qatar is expected to attract 500,000 cruise tourists by 2026.
Qatar hosts roughly 80 sporting events and world-class competitions across a multitude of sporting disciplines annually.
The country is making sports history as the first Middle Eastern country to earn the rights to host the World Championships in Athletics (2019), World Corporate Games (2019), FIFA World Cup Qatar (2022) and the FINA World Swimming Championships (2023).
The Qatari government’s dedication to supporting scientific research – particularly biomedical, computing and environmental research – has given rise to hubs of knowledge across the country, including Education City and the Qatar Science and Technology Park. Qatar’s business events sector also enjoys an exhibition capacity of 70,000 square metres.
The availability of magnificent ballrooms and vistas in Qatar places it as an emerging wedding destination, particularly for couples who have an appetite for modern luxury and entertainment and who are looking to celebrate their marriage against the backdrop of beautiful beaches.
Katara Cultural Village
Open to the public since 2010, Katara is an innovative interpretation of the region’s architectural heritage which includes impressive theatres, galleries and performance venues that stage a regular programme of concerts, shows and exhibitions. The newly opened Katara Plaza includes high-end retail shops, food outlets, residential and hospitality offerings, as well as the renowned Galleries Lafayette, an upmarket French department store.
Founded over a century ago, Souq Waqif provides an authentic taste of traditional commerce, architecture and culture. In 2008, the Souq went through a restoration period designed to preserve its architectural history and maintain its original elements, including spices and seasonal delicacies as well as perfumes, ornate jewellery, clothing and handicrafts.
National Museum of Qatar
Designed to be both immersive and experiential, the newly opened museum provides visitors with a rich environment to explore. Segmented into three chapters — ‘Beginnings’, ‘Life in Qatar’, and ‘The Modern History of Qatar’, each theme is presented across eleven highly individual galleries.
Museum of Islamic Art
Opened in 2008, the Museum of Islamic Art treats visitors to a magnificent and imaginative experience, where the finest arts and artefacts from across the Islamic world spanning 14 centuries are on display.
Al Zubarah Fort
A UNESCO-recognised heritage site since 2013, Al Zubarah Fort was originally built in 1938 and includes three major features, the largest of which are the archaeological remains of the town, dating back to the 1760s.
Al Zubarah Fort is one of a long line of prosperous trading towns around the coast in what is present day Qatar.
Sealine Beach Resort
Located in Mesaieed, Sealine Beach Resort offers a unique mix of relaxation and adventure through water sports, desert safaris, camel and horse riding, as well as beach football and basketball. It is close to Khor Al Adaid – Qatar’s inland sea and one of the few places in the world where sand dunes meet the sea. The resort was restored in 2015 by Katara Hospitality and now offers a more modern twist on a traditional Qatari resort.