Tourism is the best industry to diversify from oil, a veteran hotelier has told a discussion at Qatar Projects. The session, on Tuesday, focused on plans for growth and development of the hospitality industry in Qatar.
“To bring in more tourists and investors to the country, build more special economic zones and allow people to come,” urged Filippo Sona, head of hotels at Colliers International Mena.
Giving manufacturers a tax break and an assurance of protecting their money will boost their confidence, he felt. “You need to become the Swiss of the Middle East, bring their cash here and keep it safe so there is no panic,” the investment and development professional said.
“Can we make the same amount of money like from oil? Absolutely not.  But have you ever been to the InterContinental Kabul or to the Radisson Blu in Basra? Despite being in war zones, they are 98% occupied and making millions of dollars.”
According to Sona, the message is clear: people want to spend the money and in a country such as Qatar “where there is everything, nothing is missing” except for a “super iconic hotel.”
Citing last year’s figures, he said hotels (mostly five-star) had 71% occupancy despite their expensive room rates.
“In Jordan and in Syria, before the war, tourism was the major GDP contributor. There is no commodity and there is no oil to dig.”
While Dubai’s construction of Burj Al Arab hotel serves as a good example, he stressed that this model should not be copied since Qatar has its own history and demographics, among others.
Besides shopping malls and branded hotels, Qatar as a destination has the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara – the Cultural Village, Souq Waqif, state-of-the-art Qatar National Convention Centre and Hamad International Airport which help drive tourism growth.
Oxford Economics Middle East and Africa tourism economics director David Goodger said Qatar has been getting a lot of share of the regional tourism growth.
Qatar Tourism Authority’s International Co-operation director Said al-Kuwari asserted that tourism is playing a significant role in diversifying Qatar’s economy.
“Tourism contributed 4.1% to Qatar’s total GDP and 8.1% of the non-extraction economy in 2014. The sector also provides nearly 76,000 jobs in Qatar.
“QTA aims to increase tourism’s contribution to Qatar’s total economy to 5.2% and up to 9.7% of Qatar’s non-hydrocarbon economy by 2030,” he added.
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