Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
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 Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar has been a journalist since 2013 at Gulf Times, reporting on events related to Qatar. He was earlier a journalist for eight years in the Philippines. He became one of the 2015 United Nations Foundation Global Goals Press Fellows. He has also attended a number of journalism seminars in the Philippines.
Cesar with an Iranian supporter.
Football fans enjoy slice of Qatari life

The football frenzy in the FIFA World Cup 2022 goes beyond the four corners of the stadium as fans explore what Qatar has to offer.“I walked around almost the entire Doha Corniche, it is beautiful and we took a boat ride, that was great, the (Doha) skyline was gorgeous,” Cesar from the US told Gulf Times. He has been roaming around Doha to discover some of the country’s hidden gems.In his recent visit to Souq Waqif, Cesar said he had the chance to dine at a famous restaurant offering authentic Qatari cuisines – referring to Shai Shamoos, owned by the famous Qatari chef, Shams al-Qassabi.“It was delicious, very traditional Qatari food, it was really good. We really wanted local cuisine since we have a lot of international food at home,” said Cesar, who is often seen taking pictures with other fans at Metro stations.Al-Qassabi’s restaurant at the bustling and popular tourist spot is one of the most sought-after dining destinations by many visitors who want to get a taste of local cuisine.He was also fascinated with Qatar’s stunning architecture and modernity – as seen during his visit to Msheireb Downtown Doha, the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, and the West Bay area.Slim from Tunisian echoed Cesar’s view citing Qatar’s diverse offerings as a destination, from its warm hospitality to its cultural attractions, as well as its numerous malls and shopping centres.“I passed by Souq Waqif three to four times daily and it is big, it has much traditional stuff here. I bought abaya, a traditional Qatari dress, for my mother. I am happy to be here and I discovered many other spaces in Qatar,” said Slim, who also lauded Qatar’s successful organising of the FIFA World Cup 2022.He said he was happy to see and meet different nationalities from various countries at Qatar’s traditional locations like the souq as they share their experiences since arriving in the country for the tournament.“I like Majboos, this is a specialty here, it is very good,” Slim stressed.Like Slim, many football fans find Souq Waqif as a vibrant and festive spot to hang-out and celebrate a team's win, drawing crowds who also share the same ecstasy and enthusiasm.A group of Pakistani nationals who witnessed the motion art projections on the Ministry of Interior (MoI) building on Sunday was impressed with the extraordinary cleanliness and safety across Qatar.The event showcased Qatar's past and present with such creativity, along with synced music, celebrating the staging of the prestigious 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.Taka from Japan, along with his compatriots, enjoyed meeting supporters of other participating teams outside stadiums, taking pictures and videos with them, since the first day of the tournament.He said the World Cup also provides an opportunity for fans like him to visit and explore the region, including neighbouring countries like Oman.“I’m in Oman (now) but I will return to Qatar on Dec 1. Oman is good so far, good weather, mountain, desert, white clean buildings, beautiful ocean, and warm welcome by people,” Taka said.Other Japanese visitors like Kohi and his friends shared a similar observation with Pakistani fans, saying they find Qatar clean, safe and beautiful with a lot of potentials to become a leading tourism destination.While Japan has its own appeal among tourists, he said Qatar’s charm comes from its rich heritage and traditions that cannot be found in other regions – a reason why they plan to stay more.Kohi said they plan to visit other places outside the city such as beaches and try some of the desert activities such as dune bashing and camel rides, which they have not experienced before.About food, he said: “So far we’ve tried biryani and kebab for dinner and it is tasty,” he said, while eating a traditional Arabic crepe

Gulf Times
Tourism beyond World Cup 2022

Qatar offers a vibrant calendar of festivals and tourism events beyond the ongoing FIFA World Cup, aimed at attracting visitors from different parts of the world, according to Qatar Tourism (QT)."The return of the Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix in October will serve as one of the highlights for 2023, QT chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel said at a press briefing Sunday.Following the success of its launch in Qatar, the renowned international event will take place in the country for 10 years starting in 2023.Qatar will also host the Geneva International Motor Show in 2023 for the first time during the same period next year, he said.“It will be even more amazing because it is not happening in Switzerland but only in Qatar,” Trenkel pointed out. “Then, we have the AFC Asian Cup 2023 and Expo 2023.”Qatar hosted more than 600 sporting events in the last 10 years, and many of these will continue beyond 2022, including the WTA Qatar Ladies Open and Qatar ExxonMobil (tennis), Commercial Bank Golf Masters (golf), and Grand Prix of Qatar (motorcycling).Qatar will also host the 2030 Asian Games.“The FIFA World Cup is a great springboard to get us underway for this goal of 2030,” Trenkel said, citing the QT’s six demand spaces: active holidays; relax and rejuvenate; sun, sea and sand; culture enthusiasts; luxury city breaks; and romantic getaways.He said that nationals from more than 95 countries can enter the country visa-free/visa-on-arrival, which makes it easy to travel to Qatar.The 96-hour stopover will also see its return after the World Cup.Currently, Trenkel noted that from about 31,000 room keys, the number grew to 45,000 with numerous hotels and resorts opening days and weeks prior to the major football tournament.Qatar offers more than 500km of coastline, plenty of beaches, including the beach near Stadium 974 and three recently opened public beaches at West Bay, in addition to the Inland sea and several hotels and beach resorts outside Doha.Besides stadiums, Trenkel urged football fans to explore Qatar’s hidden gems, including the Al Zubarah Unesco World Heritage Site, Souq Waqif, Msheireb Downtown Doha, The Pearl-Qatar, the National Museum of Qatar, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the recently opened 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museums.According to the QT, visitors can also see the Arabian Oryx, kayak through mangroves, or spot Whale Sharks, the largest fish in the world which gathers in large numbers of Qatar’s coast, on a dedicated tour.The impressive “Inland Sea” or Khor Al Adaid, a Unesco-recognised site, lies to the south of Doha, and is one of the few places in the world where the sea blend into the desert.

Stephenson and Trenkel at the press briefing. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
'Qatar offers unique experiences for travellers'

The post coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic period provides an opportunity to attract more visitors from different countries, especially those who are looking for unique experiences, according to Qatar Tourism (QT).“We see a rebound specifically coming out of the Indian subcontinent, and we are hoping that China will open up and allow their nationals to travel,” chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel said at a press briefing Sunday at the Host Country Media Centre at Msheireb Downtown Doha, highlighting some of Qatar’s best tourism spots and experiences for fans during the ongoing FIFA World Cup.While most visitors to Qatar come from Saudi Arabia and Oman, he noted that the other major sources include the UK, Germany, Italy and India.A big percentage of stopover traffic comes from American and Australian travellers, according to Trenkel.“I think Qatar is a great destination for the right people, and when it comes to tourism, every country is trying to position itself and has a different market, and we have particular spots where we think were extremely attractive and appealing for those people,” he said, adding that Qatar is a great place for people (who are) interested in the Islamic world.Trenkel noted that besides having a modern city with modern infrastructure, Qatar has plenty of healthcare and educational facilities, and is one of the most developed countries in the Middle East.He also underlined the key role that Qatar Airways play in boosting the country’s tourism sector even beyond the prestigious tournament.“Qatar has something very powerful – Qatar Airways – one of the biggest international carriers in the world connecting the East and the West,” he said.QT vice-president for marketing and events Brett Stephenson shared the same view, saying that many people – post-pandemic – are looking for new and curated experiences.“We believe that our premium family travel audience will embrace that and are looking for something different,” he said. “We have the infrastructure now, the facilities, the beach resorts, and all of that, beyond the natural beauty of Qatar.”Besides these offerings, Qatar has been ranked the safest country in the world by Numbeo from 2020 to 2022 in terms of crime and general safety, while Doha placed second as the safest city in Numbeo’s Crime Index by City in 2022.

Visitors enjoying the different activations at the district. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
MDD: a favourite food, shopping, cultural hub

Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) has become a favourite destination for dining, shopping and exploring Qatar’s cultural heritage, attracting a huge number of football fans from various parts of the world.“(The MDD is) very beautiful, very clean, very modern ... I just ate Mexican food and it was delicious,” Dean, who just arrived from Ireland Friday morning, told Gulf Times.He said he plans to explore some Arabic food in Qatar such as kabsa (a mix of rice and lamb), which he tried before in Saudi Arabia.Dean said he was impressed with the MDD’s infrastructure and the subway (Doha Metro), which has been transporting people safely and efficiently.“The transportation system is excellent, the subway (metro), it’s perfect, no complaints. Also, the football stadiums are unbelievable, and so clean,” said Dean, a supporter of the Argentinean football team. “Nice job, Qatar.”The MDD offers an array of local, regional and international cuisines – from cafes to restaurants – spread across the 310,000sq m district, while numerous shops and boutiques showcase a wide range of luxury brands.Food trucks also get a fair share of business due to the influx of customers who find the place relaxing.Located in the heart of Doha, the MDD can be easily accessed via the Doha Metro and other modes of transportation.“It’s been our busiest period so far,” said an employee of a popular food truck chain. “The queue seems endless, and guests like the food that we offer. There is a little difficulty in communicating with them because many cannot speak English or Arabic, but still, we were able to resolve it.”Mehdi S from Iran, meanwhile, said he was enjoying roaming around the district with his compatriot, looking for Persian food for dinner Friday.He was fascinated with the MDD’s design and modernity, which makes it attractive to many.Apart from football matches, the start of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar also witnessed foreign visitors exploring Qatar’s many attractions, touristic and cultural spots such as the MDD – dubbed “the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project and one of the smartest cities on earth”.Juan from Uruguay, who was with his compatriot Leo, said: “This place is so nice, beautiful and modern, it has much colour and much culture.”“There are many things to do (here), to know, and to visit,” he said. “It has a lot of activities for children and for families, and it is one of the most beautiful parts of Doha that I visited. We arrived three days ago.”He noted that they visited Qatar not only for football but also for leisure and to discover the country’s various tourism sites, including the MDD and its museums.Cezar from Sacramento, California, shared a similar view, lauding the many offerings at the MDD, as well as in different places in Qatar that he had visited, such as the Doha Corniche.“It’s our fourth day. It is a little warm but it’s been great, people are amazing, the service is great, everybody is just happy and friendly and I love that," he said.The MDD hosts several events, exhibitions, and activations at its three zones (Baraha, Heritage, and Sikka) throughout the tournament, aimed at providing football fans with exceptional experiences.The MDD also provides an opportunity for people to visit and discover the Al Annabi Village at Msheireb Museums’ Company House; the Universo Olivetti – Italian Exhibition at Mohamed bin Jassem house; and the Frida Kahlo Immersive Art Exhibition at the lower gallery of Bin Jelmood House – all located at the Heritage zone.

Both Japanese and German football fans spend time for video and picture-taking. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
World Cup building a bridge of communication between cultures

Vlogging and picture-taking with supporters of different participating teams at a tournament like the FIFA World Cup have become a universal language for many football fans.The opening of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on November 20 saw many residents and visitors enthusiastically joining supporters of opposing teams in revelries and other activities taking place at various locations in Doha.Just outside the Sports City metro station yesterday before the Japan v Germany match, supporters of both teams – clad in unique traditional and attractive costumes – enjoyed taking pictures together.“Everyone understands what it means when a stranger hands you his or her phone, joins your group for a picture... no need for words, and it feels great to see such as a lovely atmosphere,” said Lydia, a Filipino expatriate, who along with his family, supports the Japanese football team.Indian expatriate Arun echoed a similar view saying that such gesture only proves that sport, football in particular, builds a strong connection between people who speak different languages.While he supports the German football team, he only has nice words for the Japanese people, saying: “I love the people from Japan, they are very neat, respectful, and friendly.”His compatriot, Jerin Johny, also a German team supporter, share the same view as well, citing the Japanese people positive traits such as punctuality, cleanliness and courteousness – traits that other nationalities can learn from.This was highlighted in a viral video showing Japanese fans cleaning the Al Bayt Stadium after the tournament’s opening and first match between Qatar and Ecuador.“Japan, one of the best cleanest countries I ever seen and they are very down to earth, very polite,” Johny added.Miyu from Japan who spent time for picture-taking with both Japanese and German supporters lauded the organising of the World Cup in Qatar, citing an efficient transportation system.She said: “people are very kind, the metro is very good, Arabic food is tasty, and the tournament is well organised.”Another Japanese national, Taka, along with a group of friends, also took time for videos and picture-taking with supporters – families and bachelors – who were roaming around the venue.Asked about Qatar’s infrastructures, he said he was overwhelmed and described the stadiums as “incredible, fashionable and amazing”.He plans to visit some museums and tourist spots in Qatar.Some German supporters, with German flags painted on their faces, were also seen cheering for Japan, chanting some familiar Japanese words such as konichiwa and arigatou gozaimasu.

MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato
Travellers keen to explore new destinations: MSC Cruises boss

While every country and region is unique in its own way, the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region, including Qatar, is home to impeccable hospitality, vibrant cultures, rich histories, and diverse landscapes that make them coveted tourism destinations, according to MSC Cruises chief executive Gianni Onorato.“The global travel and tourism industry is finally seeing its long-awaited post-pandemic recovery coming through, and the GCC is an important part of that,” he told Gulf Times.Onorato said that travellers are looking forward to discovering new destinations and re-exploring new ones within the region, including Qatar.As such, he noted that MSC is witnessing a significant number of bookings from Italy, the UK and Germany to the GCC and wider Middle East.The MSC World Europa, MSC Poesia and MSC Opera are currently docked at the Doha Port to provide a unique and curated hospitality experience for fans throughout the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.The three vessels have a total passenger capacity of more than 12,000 combined: 6,782 for the Europa, 3,605 for the Poesia, and 2150 for the Opera.“At MSC Cruises, we pride ourselves on being the leading cruise tourism brand in the region, and look forward to expanding our partnerships with local stakeholders to ensure that the world can continue to explore the Mena region and immerse itself in all that it has to offer,” Onorato said.About the trends in the cruise industry such as the use of technology on-board, new destinations, Instagram travel, Gen Z impact, weather, and eco-friendly cruise travel, he said: “I think that some things haven’t changed.”“For example, passengers continue to expect premium, impeccable hospitality,” he continued. “Having said that, our post-pandemic reality means that things like contactless technology have become a key feature of any travel experience, allowing passengers to move throughout ships with reduced contact through doors or when buying items.”“Combined with apps, they streamline the booking process for onboard services and activities, providing a more convenient option for passengers,” Onorato added.He said that MSC Cruises offers guests an enriching, immersive and safe cruise experience inspired by European heritage, where they can enjoy international dining, world-class entertainment, award-winning family programmes and the very latest, user-friendly technology on board.He stressed that MSC Cruises is also committed to environmental stewardship, highlighting the importance of being eco-friendly in travel and tourism as the world battles with climate change.Onorato said that MSC Cruises operates one of the most modern fleets in the world, with the aim of minimising its environmental impact.The MSC World Europa, which recently had its naming ceremony in Doha, is the world’s largest LNG (liquefied natural gas)-powered ship – with up to 25% less carbon emissions and significantly reduced local pollutants compared to standard marine fuels.“The Future of Cruising is our new class of trailblazing ships that set new standards of luxury, innovation and sustainability,” he said. “The MSC World Europa is the first in her class, and has already broken capacity and size records, setting new standards of what luxurious cruising means, and is our most sustainable and futuristic cruise ship to date.”This state-of-the-art vessel, Onorato said, is powered by cleaner fuel, and with green technology integrated throughout the ship – “a statement of our commitment to protecting the sea and our planet as a whole”.“We have clear goals that we are working towards – our aim is to achieve a 40% reduction in carbon emissions intensity by 2030 against 2008 baseline, and net zero emissions by 2050,” he added.“These will be achieved by our ongoing research and investment in eco-friendly fuel, waste management and decarbonisation technologies,” Onorato said.The MSC Cruises chief executive lauded and congratulated Qatar and its people for taking on the challenge to host one of the World’s biggest events – the FIFA World Cup 2022.“It is no easy feat, and we have no doubt in our mind that they will put on a great show,” Onorato said. “To the people making their way to Qatar, be prepared to be welcomed with open arms and unforgettable experiences.”

Doha Metro stations witnessed Mexicans singing and dancing while disembarking. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Mexican fans 'paint the town green'

A huge number of Mexican supporters “painted the town green” Tuesday, revelling at various locations in Doha and on their way to the 974 Stadium for the Mexico-Poland match.Different metro stations witnessed high-spirited Mexican football fans – mostly garbed in green and donning the Mexican sombrero – converging at the Msheireb station singing and dancing while boarding the trains.With a portable speaker, a group of Mexicans also entertained the crowd outside the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), creating a festive atmosphere that attracted numerous spectators.“This is my first time here. I am enjoying (my stay) here in Doha. I like the city, it is very good, very beautiful,” said Enrique from Mexico, adding that he plans to visit the different touristic places in Qatar, such as Souq Waqif.It is estimated that the number of Mexican football fans who will be travelling to Qatar for the prestigious tournament could exceed 80,000.It will be the largest presence of Mexicans in a Middle Eastern country in history, it is learnt.The unveiling of Mexican sculptures gifted to Qatar at Katara – the Cultural Village on Monday marked the start of the caravan of the Mexican fans for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in the country.The Mexican-Qatari Centre was also inaugurated on November 19 by Katara general manager Prof Khalid bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti and Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon.Besides a health clinic, the Centre features a cultural events office, and security and passport clearance offices for Mexican fans supporting their national team.

A number of hypermarkets offer Japanese products.
Qatar food stores well stocked for global visitors

Major hypermarkets and supermarkets in Qatar have stocked, as well as added, various food products and offerings that cater to the needs of football fans from different countries. “We have enough stocks of food items, including bottled water, different juices and carbonated drinks, mainly from countries such as the UK, Italy, and the US where we have offices,” LuLu Group International regional manager Shanavas P M told Gulf Times.LuLu worked closely with Qatar authorities to determine the specific needs, as well as dietary preferences, of fans and tourists coming to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022, 'Gulf Times' had reported earlier. It is learnt that the demand of international foods and beverages has increased since the start of the tournament, which opened on November 20.Safari Mall also added more food items on its shelves, providing an array of selections for local and international visitors, according to procurement manager Rajesh Nair.He disclosed that Safari is also offering ready-to-eat ‘easy meals’ for customers, including for vegans and vegetarians, at a nominal cost. Another major hypermarket in Doha, meanwhile, added more food products such as refried beans, guacamole and soured cream (Mexican); Japanese sweet sauce, organic Tahini, and sushi rice (Japanese); and vegetable rice sprinkles, organic brown rice and barley tea (Korean).Vision Food Trading CEO Jewan Park noted a demand surge in a wide range of Korean products in Qatar since the start of the World Cup, especially popular foods and drinks such as Kimchi and citron tea. Vision Food is a major distributor of Korean products in the country. He said Korean products and food, now widely available in Qatar, including other outlets and at the Doha Metro, are not only popular among Korean visitors but also to different nationalities. “These are fast-moving items now,” he added. Park added that even Korean restaurants in Qatar have been attracting a large number of residents and football fans since the start of the tournament.

Mexican and Ecuadorian supporters gather at a mall in Doha. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar
Festivities go beyond stadiums

The excitement over the FIFA World Cup 2022 extended beyond the stadiums and fan zones as football fans created a festive atmosphere at shopping centres, metro stations, and in some open spaces in Doha, a few hours before the start of the first match Sunday.Colourfully-clad supporters of participating teams, especially Mexicans and Iranians, took their loud chants and cheers to a major mall in Qatar – to the delight of many shoppers and employees.Nationals of different countries, both residents and visitors, found themselves cheering for other teams as they take videos and photos with other fans.**media[871,872]**Alfredo from Mexico City, who was with a group of Mexicans at the mall, told Gulf Times that the 2022 edition of the World Cup is amazing, saying “the vibe is great (in Qatar)”.“I want to go to the Corniche, and I also like museums, as well as the library which I saw on Youtube which is very big, I want to go there as well. I plan to go to 10 different matches, I'm very excited about that,” he said, expressing optimism that the Mexican football team will reach the quarterfinals.A similar ecstatic atmosphere could also be seen outside the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, as well as in a number of metro stations such as Msheireb, Corniche, West Bay Qatar Energy and Al Bidda Sunday, bringing together supporters of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Qatar, among others.A huge crowd gathered at the FIFA Fan Festival to watch the opening ceremony and the match between Qatar and Ecuador in a live screening.

Gulf Times
Qatar festivities go beyond stadiums

The excitement over the FIFA World Cup 2022 extended beyond the stadiums and fan zones as football fans created a festive atmosphere at shopping centres, metro stations, and in some open spaces in Doha, a few hours before the start of the first match yesterday.Colourfully-clad supporters of participating teams, especially Mexicans and Iranians, took their loud chants and cheers to a major mall in Qatar – to the delight of many shoppers and employees.Nationals of different countries, both residents and visitors, found themselves cheering for other teams as they take videos and photos with other fans.Alfredo from Mexico City, who was with a group of Mexicans at the mall, told Gulf Times that the 2022 edition of the World Cup is amazing, saying “the vibe is great (in Qatar)”.“I want to go to the Corniche, and I also like museums, as well as the library which I saw on Youtube which is very big, I want to go there as well. I plan to go to 10 different matches, I'm very excited about that,” he said, expressing optimism that the Mexican football team will reach the quarterfinals.A similar ecstatic atmosphere can also be seen outside the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, as well as in a number of metro stations such as Msheireb, Corniche, West Bay Qatar Energy and Al Bidda yesterday, bringing together supporters of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Qatar, among others.A huge crowd gathered at the FIFA Fan Festival to watch the opening ceremony and the match between Qatar and Ecuador in a live screening.

Spectacular fireworks display shown on the mega-screen.
Revelry peaks as FIFA Fan Festival inaugurated

A spectacular fireworks display, drone show and live performances by renowned singers and entertainers at the Doha Corniche Saturday marked the official opening of the FIFA Fan Festival.The celebration, with Qatari comedian Hamad al-Amari as presenter, featured a “Welcome to Qatar” ceremony for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and enthralled a large number of football fans in Qatar and from around the world last night.The event was attended by FIFA and host country officials, along with FIFA Legends, who raised the FIFA World Cup 2022 Winners’ Trophy on stage, gracing a special occasion that marks the start of the prestigious tournament with the first match between Qatar and Ecuador Sunday at Al Bayt Stadium.Famous Lebanese singer Myriam Fares and Colombian star Maluma, as well as local and other international musicians and performers, took to the stage and entertained the crowd.Many supporters of participating football teams reveled at the FIFA Fan Festival, singing and dancing as they roamed the venue while others took part in games and activities.“Look at the crowd, this is awesome and then the music, it’s incredible," said Armado from Mexico, who was with other compatriots at the event.Visitors will enjoy an array of live performances and entertainment, including different activations and offerings, at the FIFA Fan Festival throughout the tournament.Screening of live matches on the mega-screens will also be held at the venue on top of a variety of local and international cuisines and beverages available in a family-friendly environment.The pedestrianised Doha Corniche will feature daily musical festivals, cultural activities, street fairs, and various entertainment shows.Its 6km stretch from the Sheraton Grand Doha Hotel to the Museum of Islamic Art Park has become the largest theatre in the world for live performances.Football fans can also experience riding newly refurbished dhows, docked along the Corniche area, it is learnt.According to organisers, commuters can reach the FIFA Fan Festival via Doha Metro's West Bay Qatar Energy (Red line), Al Bidda (Red and Green lines), and Corniche (Red line – exit only) stations.Apart from taxi, Uber and Careem, organisers noted that fans can also get to these venues by taking a shuttle bus loop or a stadium express bus for free by showing their Hayya cards.The FIFA Fan Festival will be open Sunday from 4pm-2am; from 11am-2am between November 21-29; and from 4pm-2am between November 30 and December 18.

The Qatar 2022 Contact Centre responds to an array of concerns round-the-clock. PICTURES: Ram Chand
Qatar 2022 Contact Centre receives more than 500,000 calls, 300,000 e-mails from fans

The Qatar 2022 Contact Centre has so far received more than 500,000 calls and 300,000 e-mails from football fans, mostly related to Hayya card inquiries, since opening in March and recorded a 94% satisfaction rate, centre director Khalid Aljumaily has said. Operated by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Contact Centre assists fans through different channels and eight languages, such as Arabic, English, French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Chinese, and Hindi/Urdu, in addition to having up to 750 agents being in service and in different shifts 24/7, he explained.Khalid Aljumaily speaks to journalists at the Qatar 2022 Contact CentreAljumaily was addressing a press briefing yesterday during a media tour of the Contact Centre, located at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology Al Nasr Tower B at West Bay. The SC official noted that apart from the main team in Qatar, the Contact Centre also operates international offices in India, Oman, Jordan, Kosovo, and Columbia for language support. “For example, we have a Columbia office for Spanish, as well as Portuguese; Kosovo for German, Spanish and Portuguese because it's in central Europe; we have the Indian site for English and Hindi/Urdu; while Jordan, Oman, and Qatar for Arabic and English languages,” he said.As Qatar receives a huge number of football fans from various parts of the world (with different time zones), Aljumaily said the centre’s international offices will enable them to work more efficiently and cover more hours based on their shifts. Besides WhatsApp calls, messages, and emails, he said they also deployed different channels to assist fans, in addition to having an official chatbot where people can interact and send their inquiries. “If the problem was not solved at that stage, then that inquiry can be redirected to our contact centre,” Aljumaily said.From Hayya and ticket purchases-related concerns, he said, he expects interactions to shift to accommodation, transportation, and activations such as fan zones, and other general matters related to fans, the tournament, and Qatar. “For example, there is no match today, they can just simply call the Contact Centre and say ‘I would like to do some activities what do you recommend today’, so that's also being taken into consideration and will be addressed,” Aljumaily said.He noted that Contact Centre agents underwent a series of training, from soft skills (how to handle a call, how to respond) and core training to specialised training. These include troubleshooting a number of technical issues that fans might encounter, as well as data correction. According to Aljumaily, the Contact Centre in Doha also deploys supervisors to different locations to oversee the entire operation round-the-clock.

Swiss ambassador Edgar Doerig interacting with sculpture artist David Pflugi at the CSD yesterday. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkula
Swiss envoy launches Club Suisse Doha

The Swiss embassy in Qatar, in co-operation with partners from the private sector, launched the Club Suisse Doha (CSD) initiative yesterday at the Doha Port’s Mina District, in line with the Swiss National Football team’s participation in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Swiss ambassador Edgar Doerig led the club’s inauguration, highlighting the strong bilateral relations between Qatar and Switzerland, including trade and investments, politics and culture and arts.The club, he said, serves as a platform to bring Switzerland closer to Qataris, residents, and international visitors, giving them the opportunity to discover the different aspects of Swiss culture.Aside from Swiss sculpture artist David Pflugi’s unique works at the CSD, the envoy also cited a number of permanent and temporary installations in Doha by Swiss artists, including Urs Fischer’s Teddy Bear at Hamad International Airport, Pflugi’s work at 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum, and Ugo Rondinone’s Doha Mountains near 974 Stadium.According to the embassy, the club is open to the public and serves as a meeting point for Swiss, residents and international guests where they can “experience Switzerland in its diversity and a rich cultural programme”.The event is also aimed at promoting sustainable tourism and share Switzerland’s passion for sports and football.Some of the activities at the CSD include watching the football matches live on TV in a unique Swiss atmosphere, savouring a variety of Swiss cuisines, live shows by Swiss and Qatari musicians, Art atelier showcasing Pflugi and other Swiss artists, organising chocolate workshops, welcoming special events in collaboration with Swiss companies, temporary exhibitions on sustainability and human rights, and exchanging ideas and networking.Pflugi’s The Victory Works at the CSD features stunning objects described as “priceless artefacts” and “true monuments” – both in complexity and size – which have been signed by football legends: Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Fernando Torres, Lionel Messi, Luka Modrik, and Kylian Mbappe, among others.

QT chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel at the media roundtable yesterday. PICTURES: Thajudheen.
QT offers over 9,500 rooms for World Cup

Qatar Tourism (QT), in collaboration with booking platforms Expedia, Airbnb, and, has issued licences to more than 3,500 properties under its Holiday Homes initiative, offering over 9,500 rooms for the FIFA World Cup 2022 visitors.Launched in 2021, Holiday Homes aims to add more accommodation options and promotes a safe, as well as an enjoyable experience, for visitors. “We are looking forward to an amazing tournament, to an amazing experience for every visitor that is coming to Qatar,” QT chief operating officer Berthold Trenkel told a media roundtable yesterday.According to QT, sun and sea enthusiasts will enjoy the numerous offerings and family-friendly beach club experiences such as all-day dining, purpose-built fan zone, culinary grab & go services and live entertainment, among others, at three newly-opened beaches at West Bay: B12 Beach Club, Doha Sands and West Bay Beach.In addition, QT’s Service Excellence focused segment witnessed the revamping of its call centre, setting up more than 60 information centres and over 10 virtual concierges, and the training of thousands of frontline service professionals under its Qatar Host programme. “I’m pleased to say that leading up to the major event... we got 550-plus licenced tour guides in the country. We have the right level of language expertise. We needed to make sure that we have plenty of German-speaking, Italian-speaking tour guides, and so on,” Denisa Spinkova from the Tourism Marketing and Promotion Sector said.QT also partnered with Vodafone for an SMS campaign to welcome visitors, encouraging them to use of the mobile app and get information about Qatar’s curated experiences and events. The app is live in eight languages. features “Shaheen” – a visitor chatbot that allows real-time conversation with a customer service agent on the ground.“I am really proud to say that we have managed to cover all main visitor touch points. Anyone who is starting to plan their travels to those who actually arrive in the country and until the moment they leave, we have them covered with information and inspiration and everything they need to know,” Iris Wagner from the Tourism Marketing and Promotion Sector said. Qatar Tourism added that around 500,000 copies of Qatar Now guidebook and 1mn copies of Qatar Map (pocket fold), featuring key tourism sites and event information during the tournament, will be printed and distributed at key locations. Digital versions can be viewed through Qatar Airways, digital kiosks, and Visit Qatar app.Visitors will also have the opportunity to ride 40 newly renovated Dhow boats, supported by new pontoons built by QT’s partner at Ashghal.

Gulf Times
Qatar a hugely attractive tourism destination, says football legend

Qatar’s hosting of major sporting events makes it a hugely attractive global tourism destination, renowned ex-footballer Andrea Pirlo said. “I find Qatar to be very interesting for international tourists because of sports events (that it hosts) such as the Formula 1 and Moto GP” he told Gulf Times in his recent visit to Doha.Pirlo said Qatar has become an engrossing destination for a lot of people who want to visit and explore its unique and curated touristic offerings, in addition to knowing the country better. One of the attractions in Qatar he likes most is the Souq Waqif – a key tourism landmark that lures a huge number of local and international visitors. Pirlo said his visit to Doha involved sightseeing and going to places that he likes: “I always like to go to Souq Waqif because it is very characteristic of this region, and I like to go in the night because it is crowded, I love to see the people going there, so it is really very nice to see this culture.” He added that Qatar has also become his favourite family destination, saying it is one of the safest countries for visitors, alongside a welcoming environment. “I find people here to be very friendly, always welcoming the tourists with open arms, and I’m sure that they (tourists) will love Qatar and will feel like home,” Pirlo said. He describes the country’s transformation as stunning since his first visit in 2003 with the Italian team. He also cited the country’s unparalleled hospitality and hopes to visit the country more often in the future. “Qatar means a lot to me, it is special... I find it much more different from the year when I visited Qatar for the first time,” he stressed.

Gulf Times
“No Football. No Worries.” Andrea Pirlo fronts latest Qatar Tourism campaign

Legendary Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo stars in a new global campaign by Qatar Tourism titled “No Football. No Worries.”The iconic sportsman, who famously played for the Italian national team, will show just how much Qatar has to offer and where to experience its world-class offerings.In a series of humorous advertisements, viewers see Pirlo enjoying various adventures in Qatar, from sandboarding down the desert dunes of the Inland Sea and soaking up the culture in the Museum of Islamic Art to kitesurfing at the country’s new resort, Fuwairit Kite Beach.“I have really enjoyed exploring Qatar. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people and has so much to offer. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, you can enjoy Qatar and experience adventure, culture and thrilling activities – I have been many times before, and I can’t wait to visit again,” Pirlo said.Haya al-Noaimi, head of the Promotion Section at Qatar Tourism, said: “Qatar will soon be home to millions of visitors from around the world and we look forward to sharing with guests the variety of captivating experiences that feature in our latest, playful campaign.“From vibrant souqs to majestic natural landscapes, Qatar offers its warm, authentic hospitality at each touchpoint of the visitor journey while catering to every interest and every type of budget.”“No Football. No Worries.” adverts are launching on global broadcasters. They will be activated in 17 countries on November 15 across local TV stations, social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, and online platforms including YouTube and the Google Display Network.The campaign forms part of Qatar Tourism’s new global brand platform, “Feel More in Qatar”, which focuses on the family-friendly activities and experiences on offer in Qatar. The central “Feel More in Qatar” campaign will launch in December. It sees three engaging animated characters introduce a family to the breadth of emotional experiences they will have in Qatar, as well as the country’s renowned hospitality and warm welcome. The characters - Shaheen the falcon, Maha the Arabian oryx and Lulu the hawksbill turtle, represent Qatar’s iconic wildlife and guide the family to discover the soul of Qatar; a destination that blends cosmopolitan modernity and stunning landscapes with rich tradition and culture.Pirlo is currently manager of the Turkish Süper Lig club Fatih Karagümrük. During his active football-playing years, he starred for Inter and AC Milan, Juventus, New York City FC, and his Italian national side. Pirlo appeared in every match of Italy’s title-winning run at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, scoring the first goal in the final penalty shoot-out that helped his side secure victory over France.Qatar Tourism has an ambitious long-term strategy to increase the number of inbound visitors to more than six million annually by 2030. The destination will achieve this by boosting the entire tourism value chain, increasing local and international visitor demand, and driving a multiplier effect across the domestic economy.

 Qatar's three new beaches offer a host of amenities. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
QT opens 3 new beaches at West Bay

Qatar Tourism (QT) opened three new downtown beaches Wednesday at West Bay, offering residents and FIFA World Cup 2022 visitors an affordable and family-friendly beach club experience.Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker, along with Hamad International Airport COO engineer Badr al-Meer, led the inauguration of West Bay Beach, B12 Beach Club, and Doha Sands – located in the heart of Doha.“At Qatar Tourism we continue to expand our offerings to cater to every kind of traveller, at every kind of budget. As the country strives to welcome 6mn visitors a year by 2030, strong additions such as this, show the world that everyone is welcome in Qatar,” al-Baker said.The three beaches offers beach-goers, besides an overlooking the naturally beautiful coastline of Qatar, a host of amenities: a volleyball court, a purpose-built fan zone, and a delectable food court at West Bay Beach; 600 sun loungers, water sport activities, versatile all-day dining and a children’s playground at B12 Beach Club; and 1,000 sun loungers, a concert stage and quick-service food outlets at Doha Sands.According to Qatar Tourism, the beaches – primed to be some of the city’s most sought-after destinations for families and tourists during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and beyond – offer unforgettable experiences for all.“As we prepare to welcome more than a million visitors in the coming weeks, we find ourselves at a particularly exciting moment, both in our country’s history and for its tourism industry.“With Qatar set to be the Middle East’s fastest-growing destination by 2030, these three beaches are the latest addition to what continues to be an impressive programme of new developments across the country,” Al-Baker said.Qatar Tourism noted that West Bay Beach, B12 Beach Club, and Doha Sands also position Doha “as a unique and desirable capital city with so many beach destination options at convenient and easily accessible locations”.The newly inaugurated beaches fall under Qatar Tourism’s West Bay Beach Project, which sees an extensive new development in the heart of Doha covering 40,000sq m of premium beachfront.Al-Baker noted that 2022 witnessed a phenomenal number of new openings across leisure, entertainment, and hospitality offerings, catering to every kind of traveller. These include the 230,000sq m Al Maha Island, which offers family-friendly fun, especially with the Lusail Winter Wonderland and Nammos Qatar beach club; and the Lusail Boulevard, a pedestrian-friendly destination that features climate-controlled streets and an array of retail and dining options.“Qatar has both expanded its offering while also leveraging its natural assets and its true differentiators. For example, the consistent winds and ideal ocean conditions of Fuwairit Kite Beach resort make for an energetic experience for visitors, and a haven for kite surfers.“At the same time, The Outpost at Al Barari, a first-of-its-kind, sustainable luxury resort in the heart of the Inland Sea nature reserve, offers guests a serene chance to escape from busy modern lives,” al-Baker said, adding that Qatar’s ambitions as a leading international tourist destination extend far beyond Dec 18.

Glimpses of the cruise ship's interiors and from the Naming Ceremony. PICTURES: Joey Aguilar and supplied
MSC Cruises introduces future of cruising with official launch of MSC World Europa in Qatar

* MSC Cruises introduces future of cruising with official launch of MSC World Europa in Qatar   MSC Cruises marked the Naming Ceremony of its newest flagship, the MSC World Europa, at the revamped Doha Port Sunday in time for Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18. The event featured a traditional maritime ceremony at Doha Port, which was attended by Qatar Foundation (QF) Vice-Chairperson and Chief Executive HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive and Qatar Tourism Chairman HE Akbar al-Baker, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy Secretary-General HE Hassan al-Thawadi, MSC Cruises executive chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, Master of the Vessel Captain Marco Massa, and several guests.  PICTURES: Joey Aguilar and supplied The *MSC World Europa, dubbed as the world’s largest environmentally focused cruise passenger ship, will serve as a floating hotel, providing football fans with a unique hospitality experience. “The *MSC World Europa is our most innovative vessel. She is the world’s best-performing cruise ship in terms of *CO2 emissions per guest,” said Vago, adding: “Running on LNG, the cleanest fossil fuel and, of course, Qatar’s most renowned export.” He stressed that MSC, like Qatar, placed climate change at the forefront of its agenda and reiterated its commitment to reaching net zero carbon from its cruise operations by 2050. The Naming Ceremony also underlines the overall commitment of MSC, together with Qatar Airways, to boost tourism in Qatar, the region (where MSC Cruises is brand leader), and internationally. “Over the years, we have proven our commitment to supporting Qatar’s economic diversification, which is guided by Qatar National Vision 2030,” Vago said. “And of course, to further develop Qatar’s global tourism destination profile. Qatar has a wonderful tourism offering to meet a huge variety of interests, and an array of destinations.” “In 2016, our own MSC Fantasia became the first major cruise ship to call at Doha,” he said. “We have been reliable partners ever since.” “And today, we renew our commitment to Qatar by homeporting our most modern and innovative ship in Doha,” Vago added. Speaking at the press briefing Sunday, HE al-Baker noted that Qatar welcomed more than 560,000 cruise visitors and 182 port calls since the launch of cruise tourism in the country. For the 2021/22 season, he noted, the top nationality of cruise visitors to Qatar are Italians, enjoying 29 calls to Doha Port by two MSC vessels. “While Qatar Airways is the global aviation gateway to Qatar, the marine industry is very important to tourism and the long-term economic and cultural connections it brings,” HE al-Baker said. “As sustainability is vital to the future growth of aviation, the *MSC World Europa illustrates how the marine industry is addressing the challenges of efficiency and emissions reductions.” “The Naming Ceremony of the *MSC World Europa is an important prelude to the FIFA World Cup 2022 and shows the enormous endeavour and collaboration necessary to deliver the best World Cup ever,” he added. HE al-Baker said that Qatar Airways serves more than 150 destinations around the world, including the major cruise cities, while its network and its people play a key role in connecting MSC Cruise passengers to the most sought-after destinations and the authentic experience in Qatar. He cited Hamad International Airport (HIA)’s major expansion that will increase its capacity to 58mn passengers and provide an unparalleled travel experience. Meanwhile, the event witnessed a cutting-edge video-mapping projection onto the ship’s hull, a huge drone show, and a spectacular fireworks display. Part of the celebration included performances of local artistes and international singer-songwriter Matteo Bocelli, hosted by comedian, producer and entrepreneur Hamad al-Amari. Bocelli presented his solo work for the first time in Doha and his new album is set to be released by early 2023 via Capitol Records. An environmentally-advanced cruise ship The MSC World Europa is the most innovative and environmentally advanced cruise ship in the MSC Cruises fleet. On top of groundbreaking advances in terms of reduction of emissions and energy efficiency, the LNG-powered ship paves the way towards the uptake of carbon-neutral synthetic and other alternative fuels as soon as they are available at scale. Spanning 22 decks, with 215,863GTs, 47m wide, 40,000sq m of public space and 2,626 cabins, the MSC World Europa is an ultramodern urban metropolis at sea offering a veritable world of different experiences, while setting a new standard for the cruise industry. The MSC World Europa will spend her inaugural season in the Middle East, offering 7-night cruises to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sir Bani Yas Island, the UAE, Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and Doha. The ship’s season will commence on December 20 with a special four-night sailing from Doha to Dubai. Departing Dubai on March 25, 2023, it will head to the Mediterranean Sea for summer 2023. She will offer seven-night cruises calling on the Italian ports of Genoa, Naples and Messina, as well as Valletta in Malta, Barcelona in Spain, and Marseille in France. The MSC World Europa will feature selective catalytic reduction systems, shore-to-ship power connectivity, advanced wastewater treatment systems to comply with the so-called Baltic standard, the strictest global standard for wastewater disposal to sea, an underwater radiated noise management system to reduce potential noise and vibration impact on marine mammals, as well as a wide range of energy-efficient equipment and systems.