The Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival has transformed the nation into a favoured tourism destination, captivating thrill-seekers and enthusiasts with its fusion of awe-inspiring landscapes and a unique ballooning experience, according to flight director Lee Hooper.

“The beauty of Qatar, with the events (previous editions of the Qatar Hot Air Balloon Festival) here for the last couple of years, has now become world-famous,” he said. “The list of people who want to come to the balloon fiesta is always much longer than those we can accommodate. It’s oversubscribed, so it's become really popular amongst balloonists because it’s such a beautiful place to fly.”

The latest edition of the event kicked off on Thursday at Katara – Cultural Village (southern area), showcasing a diverse array of balloons, as well as tethered and entertainment shows, which drew a large number of people.

Launching a 12-day extravaganza that will conclude on December 18, the organisers highlighted the anticipation of a grander event this year, boasting 55 balloons— a substantial increase from the initial 30 during its inception.

It is learnt that the festival has been warmly embraced by the public, with Hooper stressing the universal appeal of balloons. Hooper said: “Everyone likes balloons; everyone loves to see them, and it brings a smile to their face. They are unusual, and seeing them just over the city is really special.

“What's really nice around here is we have these balloons that are special in shapes (and designs). You can have a clown, an alien, and all sorts of balloons that make a very colourful spectacle.”

About the international impact of the festival, Hooper expressed optimism about attracting more visitors from around the world. Besides British nationals back home, he said even his parents in the UK were seeing pictures of the balloon festival in the UK papers, featuring what he described as a real global spread.

Residents and visitors in Doha Friday witnessed a take-off of several balloons near the Khalifa International Stadium, within Aspire Zone, as part of the daily morning ‘Sunrise’ activity. In the afternoons, tethered shows take place at Katara, providing spectators with a unique and captivating experience.

“In the morning, we’ll take off from different places around the city to fly over the landscape. Not only at Katara, it could be in different places. Sometimes we fly from Sports City, sometimes down in the desert, sometimes up in Lusail, depending on the wind (weather conditions),” Hooper added.
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