Qatar Chamber (QC) recently issued a study titled ‘The Reality of Qatar Tourism Sector in The Time of COVID-19: Challenges and Solutions’, highlighting the reality of the global travel and tourism sector and the reality and components of Qatar’s tourism sector in terms of the current legislative structure and infrastructure, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism sector.
It also reported on the contribution of tourism to Qatar’s GDP and efforts being made to develop the sector.
The report further touched on the Chamber’s role in supporting and developing the tourism sector and elaborated on the investment opportunities available in the tourism sector, in addition to obstacles and challenges facing the sector.
It introduced a set of suggestions and recommendations to activate the tourism sector in the state.
According to the study, the tourism sector is one of the most important and dynamic economic sectors in the global economy, representing about 30 percent of global service exports or $ 1.5 trillion. It said that within the recent decades, the tourism sector has achieved high growth rates and contributed 10.4 percent to global GDP ($9.170 billion) in 2019, while it declined in 2020 due to the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study, prepared by QC Research and Studies Department, reviewed features and ingredients of the Qatari tourism and facilities offered by the state to support the sector.
Elaborating on tourism features in Qatar, the report said that Qatar owns one of the best airports and airlines in the world and is the safest country globally as per the World Crime Index from 2017 to 2020 according to the Global Crime Index.
It also noted that Qatar enjoys a strategic distinct location, indicating that the UN World Tourism Organization ranked Qatar in 2018 as the most open country in the Middle East and the 8th most open in the world in terms of visa facilitation. Citizens of 88 countries in the world can enter Qatar without the need to apply or pay for a visa.
As for the impact of COVID-19 on Qatari tourism, the study said this is evident through the number of hotels and hotel rooms established during the pandemic period, citing the total number of hotels, amounted to 109 hotels, didn’t see any change during 2020, while the number of hotel rooms reached 23,297 by the end of 2020 compared to 24,562 in 2019, a decrease of 5.2 percent during the same period.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the contribution of the travel and tourism sector to Qatar’s GDP decreased in 2020 to 7.5 percent, where it amounted to QR42.7 billion, and the sector contributed over 210,300 jobs, or 10.2 percent of the country’s total employment in 2020, a 19.8 percent decrease.
The QC report also said that despite the negative impacts of the pandemic, Qatar’s hospitality sector fared exceptionally well compared to global benchmarks. Doha had the 6th highest occupancy rate worldwide in 2020, and the smallest decline in RevPAR among all key global cities.
In 2020, international tourists in Qatar spent over QR32.1 billion, compared to QR47.8 billion worth of spending by international visitors in 2019, a decrease of 32.8 percent.
Domestic travel and tourism spending by residents in Qatar stood at QR6.9 billion in 2020, compared to QR11.6 billion in 2019, a decrease of 40.5 percent.
The study stressed that Qatar places special interest in developing the tourism sector, in a way that makes it a global tourist destination. It also highlighted the functions made by the Qatar National Tourism Council which provides support for activities and events held in the state.
It reviewed the Council’s efforts to attract the best organisers of activities from all over the world by offering a range of incentives which include facilitating their events, providing financial support and launching initiatives, as well as opening representative offices in the most important tourist markets, enhancing cooperation with the World Tourism Organization and establishing promotional campaigns, in collaboration with the world’s most important and famous media and tourism platforms, which helped in enhancing Qatar’s status as a global tourist destination.
The study said that the Chamber, as a representative of the private sector and through its Tourism Committee, plays an important and active role in stimulating domestic tourism by encouraging the private sector to make a greater effort to support and develop the sector amid recent challenges. It also encourages the private sector to establish tourist projects and hotel accommodation facilities in various ratings to make the FIFA World Cup 2022 a great success.
The chamber further works through the committee to find solutions for obstacles facing the sector, especially in view of the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, by finding appropriate solutions and mechanisms, as well as by promoting investment opportunities in the sector through the chamber’s website or by publishing them through the chamber’s magazine and other possible means.
According to the QC study, the Qatari tourism sector offers a myriad of investment opportunities in various areas such as establishing new hotels in different ratings to suit all visitors and guests, in addition to investing in various entertainment and tourism projects and malls sector.
Moreover, there are significant opportunities in SMEs related to the tourism sector, which are innovative projects that generate lucrative profits for investors.
The tourism sector also offers opportunities in business event services, culture and heritage, desert safari services, food, health and well-being, entertainment activities, sports, recreation, organizing tourist tours and accommodation, and transportation services.
The study reviewed some obstacles facing the sector such as the lack of infrastructure, as the sector still requires many hotels and hotel rooms to meet the increasing demand from a large number of tourist delegations, lack of tourist resorts in Qatar and lack of qualification of the Qatari coastline, which stretches to 600 km long.
Other obstacles also include the lack of training, skills, technical capabilities, and sufficient qualified human resources, in addition to the ineffectiveness of marketing and advertising networks to promote the tourism product and lack of studies and research related to the tourism sector.
They also include the presence of complicated and long procedures for the cruise ships that carry tourist delegations, which leads to the delay of these delegations, the absence of tourist guides approved by the official tourism authorities and the high prices of hotel accommodation in many resorts due to the health requirements related to the pandemic.
Expensive flights and services rates in some hotels, which negatively affect domestic tourism, are also among obstacles facing the sector.
The study recommended the development of a short-term action plan to mitigate and reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector.
The action plan includes two connected phases; the first focuses on reducing the impact of Covid-19 and relaunching tourism activities after easing travel restrictions and social distancing, while the second focuses on preparing a comprehensive plan to revive the tourism sector.
The study referred to the EU and Singapore experiment in this respect which aimed to enhance and encourage cooperation between stakeholders in the country’s tourism sector.
It also recommended promoting tourism in open spaces, such as geographical tourism, eco-tourism, safari tourism, rural tourism, and adventure tourism, as well as encouraging domestic tourism and low-cost aviation to attract larger numbers of tourists from the main and promising markets.
The study also offered several suggestions including creating new tourism products away from hotels and resorts, with the aim of developing and providing an integrated tourism system that supports domestic tourism and attracts foreign visitors.
It also suggested developing statistics and indicators related to the tourism sector and exchanging data and statistical information between the concerned authorities in the country.