By Muhammad Asad Ullah
Nestled against the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea in Western Asia, Qatar, the port country is stooped in history having undergone several changes over the decades, but the key remains the same, still rich with Arabic heritage. Visitors can enjoy a stroll through the pastel-hued buildings of the Pearl while the old town Souq is always abuzz with activity.
The most recent Qatar tourism statistics show an increase in international tourists to the country. Qatar has recently taken over as one of the popular tourist destinations for visitors from all over the world. With picturesque offerings such as the National Museum of Qatar, Katara, Souq Waqif, The Pearl and Sea Line, where desert touches the ocean, to name just a few, it is obvious why tourists flock to the heritage rich country. Wasn’t it only a few months ago when the entire world was looking up to the opening of National Museum of Qatar that was in-spades with Arabic heritage and modernised elements?
According to the statement of the Secretary-General of Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer, HE Akbar al-Baker, in May, Qatar received 588,000 visitors during the first quarter of this year, an increase of 10 percent compared to the Q1 last year. Similarly, The World Tourism Organisation, or UNWTO, released their 2019 Tourism Highlights (January Edition), which examines data from 2018-2019. In it, they highlight that Qatar’s visa facilitation improvements including allowing nationals of 88 countries to enter visa-free and free-of-charge, has made Qatar the most open country in the Middle East.
Where Summer in Qatar has just concluded with helluva family activities around Qatar, Qatar-India Year of Culture is still underway with regal events planned for the entire year — attracting tourists and cultural enthusiasts worldwide.
Well, desert has a long-connected history with the Arab world, embedded in the roots, and many people worldwide travel to the desert to truly understand the reserve. Not that just that, but dune bashing and recreational activities in the desert are one of the most popular ‘to do list’ things for the people visiting Middle East.
Amidst the poetical dunes of the Arabian Desert kissed by the blue waters of the Arabian Sea, at Sea Line Mesaieed lies the Sealine Beach, A Murwab resort. An unmatched resort destination for sun seekers and adventure lovers, that offers an eco-friendly destination that is as exhilarating as it is tranquil and relaxing.
The recreational experience that it offers to the tourists or locals encompasses an energy haven spa, watersports, desert safaris, camel and horseback riding, banana boat rides, dune bashing and more. The recreational facilities also include football, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts and cricket fields.
Community recently sat with Tarek Nour, General Manager at Sealine Beach Resort, to talk about the ever-increasing tourism in Qatar, how they accommodate them at Murwab Resort and how he brings his seasoned experience of hospitality sector to Qatar.
As tourism to Qatar continues to grow, it may prove the most effective tool in changing cultural bias to dispel any misperceptions, if any. You simply must find out for yourself. The journey may surprise you!
For how long have you been working in the Hospitality industry?
I come from Egypt. I have been in the hospitality industry for the past 14 years. I’ve been groomed throughout my career with well-crafted hotels and organisations, I think where I am right definitely also accredits to the well competent teams I’ve been working and surrounded with throughout. I’ve not been a stranger to Qatar and have managed to successfully open Simaisma resort, where we cater luxury villas and elite brand of services. Before Qatar, I was with Four Seasons Company for good about 13 years, travelling throughout the Middle East, Europe and North America.
What is the role of tourism in the growth of cultural experience in Qatar? and how do you think Sealine plays a part in it as a whole?
With the current expansion of visa for several nationalities and now that many nationalities can apply it online has definitely helped expanding the horizon of cultural diversity in Qatar. Many people come in, carrying their heritage and traditions with them. Sealine at this stage caters multiple guests. Basically the huge space we have, including several types of rooms, suites and villas, meshed perfectly with recreational activities like a couple of pools, beach front, spa, basketball and football fields; really helps a lot to expand the leisure of guests that’ll be coming to Qatar. So, in that way where many people are coming in Qatar, we’re accommodating them and bringing them together at one place. Many people from different nationalities come to Sea Line and there’s quite an exchange of cultural elements. We have Sealine that is modern, yet touches the heritage roots.
Summer in Qatar means scorching heat, in this case – do you really think people make it to the resorts, especially when its so hot outside?
You know, you avoid the sun from 11am till 3pm, nobody’s really a big fan to be outside during this time, during their vacay on resorts, either way in Qatar. They either enjoy in the morning time uptill 10 and evening post 4pm. People nap during those afternoon hours of heat mostly, so it doesn’t really matter,
What is that one facility that resort can make its USP (Unique Selling Point)? Because spa and open air is what every resort in the world offers?
It has to be a perfect balance and mix of each element. Where we have a focus on food and beverages, offering Pizzas and buffets, we also make sure that our recreational activities are top of the line, including some water activities. So, it has to be that perfect balance where people can just come in and feel that they have everything available. Family swimming pools are also very important to cater the kids.
For over an year or two – there’s quite a boost in tourism in Qatar. Has it also affected positively for Sealine?
For sure it has. Although there are very few resorts here at Sea Line, I think it won’t be erroneous to say that we’re one of the resorts offering the best sea front in Sea Line. We always have a good demand especially during the summer-time. Locals mostly, instead going anywhere else in the world, just comes over here to unwind. Even corporate companies now instead of going anywhere else come here for recreational activities and purposes. Because of good relations with Kuwait and Oman, we see many people coming from there even to enjoy the wind and beach here.
People opt for resorts to unwind and meditate, What treatments would you recommend to all such people who want to take a break from their busy life?
People can simply book a room or suite or however they like at the resort and go for the top-notch spa treatments that we have to offer. Special yoga sessions give an edge. I’ve not tried yoga here in Qatar, but I have before and I strongly believe, if you work on your senses and rituals and try to control in and vent out with different yoga positions; you get mentally relaxed and ready for the next week or month or so.
Has resort culture in Qatar been affected by the popular heritage?
It has, because now we have shifted our focus quite much toward the local heritage. We have embedded the local heritage with the leisure modern elements to create a balance. All the amenities here and the menus we have at restaurants are perfectly aligned with the local cultural elements.
Where do you see the tourism of Qatar in the next five years?
It is on the rise and will be that way. Current structure of the country, including ministries and then collaborations between the hotels definitely will have an impact with an increasing rate, just the way it is going on right now.
How would you draw a parallel between hospitality industry worldwide and in Qatar?
You can’t really compare apples with oranges. But one thing I feel is that, in Qatar, we welcome the guests much much more warmly – which is very different. The quality is same around the world but because of the influence of Arabic culture here and it’s warmth, it gives an edge to hospitality industry in Qatar.
Desert has been a part of cultural heritage of Qatar since forever, where and how do you think resort blends in with it at large?
Very rarely you’ll find an area like Sea Line, where you’ll find the dunes of sands clashing with the sea. Very big cinema productions love coming over towards this side and shoot. So, I think we have nothing to do with it, but the blending has come in just naturally.
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