The following articles are provided byQatar Tourism Authority

The Gulf’s next tourism hotspot?

Qatar: making its mark on luxury leisure travel

An aerial view of Doha
An aerial view of Doha

Human nature being what it is, it’s a fair bet that most readers find it hard to switch off the “how to make it” side of their brains completely. So no apologies for introducing a travel piece with a couple of business-related facts and figures.



In 2013, Qatar recorded a total of 132,000 British visitors, which far exceeded the 86,000 from the rest of Europe combined and made the UK the country’s fourth largest source of incoming travellers by nationality.



While precise data are hard to come by, it seems likely that a substantial proportion of these British visitors were travelling mainly on business. Qatar, with its oil and gas wealth and relatively small domestic-production base, has long been seen as a land of opportunity and a magnet for the world’s exporters of both goods and services. In contrast, the country’s leisure-tourism industry is at a relatively early stage of development.



But that could all be about to change; in fact, the process has already started. Qatar has set out on a major drive to diversify its economy from over-reliance on energy, and tourism has been earmarked as a key flagship sector in this process. (Current moves in the international oil price once again underline the wisdom of this diversification strategy.)



The scale of the country’s ambition is remarkable. The Qatar Tourism Authority is targeting a growth in total visitors from 2.6m last year to 7m by 2030. This calls for massive investment in the tourism infrastructure, including hotel construction to raise the number of rooms from 14,000 to around 56,000 over the same period.



It’s not just a question of numbers either. Qatar has its sights firmly set on the luxury end of the market, determined to build its reputation as a leading quality destination meeting the highest expectations of sophisticated international travellers.



Is this realistic? Does Qatar have what it takes? If you have any doubts, take a visit to Doha, Qatar’s capital and only major city. Step inside your hotel – any hotel for that matter – and you’ll quickly find the foundations for luxury tourism are already well in place.



Despite being quite new to leisure travel, the legacy of Qatar’s attractions as a business destination means the hotels have a strong background in catering to the exacting requirements of that market. Equally important is their experience in meeting the needs of what is traditionally their largest group of visitors, the often ultra-wealthy guests from neighbouring Gulf countries for whom only the highest standards of luxury are acceptable.



The net result is that Qatar’s hotels are outstanding, offering a level of service matching the best in the world. Many are self-contained resorts in their own right, with spacious, well-equipped luxury rooms, stylish public areas and a comprehensive spectrum of on-the-spot facilities and services. These are complemented by a range of exclusive boutique hotels and hotel apartments, ensuring Doha’s accommodation options cover all the bases.



As befits a country enjoying year-round sunshine, all the top hotels have well-appointed pool areas, often in stunning garden settings, with comfortable loungers, a nearby children’s pool and waiter service; in short, a perfect spot to lie back and take a well-earned break. A number also have private beaches for the exclusive use of their clients.



And, while on the subject of unwinding in luxurious surroundings, it would be hard to beat the pampering on offer at Doha’s spas, most of which are located in the major hotels.



Getting out and about, first impressions are of an attractive, clean, green and predominantly modern “first world” city. Doha is centred on the Corniche, a waterfront promenade backed by parkland, providing a vehicle-free recreational oasis in the heart of the city. Extending a full 7km around the semi-circular Doha Bay, the Corniche takes you on a symbolic journey from the dhow port and Souq Waqif – living reminders of the region’s traditional commerce – to the present and future, as represented by the soaring skyscrapers of the central business district.



Souq Waqif, in particular, is a great visitor favourite, providing an unforgettable authentic taste of lively Arab street life, business and local architecture, as well as cafés and restaurants where you can soak up the atmosphere, sights, sounds and aromas. But Doha offers plenty of attractions whatever your interest or taste – perhaps a new cultural experience, an active holiday or simply a relaxing luxury break.



Qatar ticks plenty of boxes for the variety of sports and activities it offers. The climate, abundant marine life and crystal-clear waters make it a perfect destination for watersport enthusiasts. Fishing trips can be arranged and sailing, waterskiing, canoeing, jet skiing and windsurfing are all available through beach clubs, tour companies and hotels. Dive sites are easily accessible and include wreck, deepwater and reef dives. On land, visitors are welcome to play at Doha Golf Club, home of the annual Qatar Masters European PGA tour event.



Other visitor activities on offer range from desert safaris, dhow cruises and camel races to exploring the country’s natural and historical wonders – the dramatic “Inland Sea”, pristine empty beaches, spectacular wind-sculpted rock formations, mangrove lagoons, imposing forts, dusty villages and much more. Add to these Doha’s great shopping and dining options.



Overall, the main building blocks for a thriving tourism industry are already in place and the future looks bright for Qatar to make its mark on the world travel scene.



Doha skyline from the Museum of Islamic Art
Doha skyline from the Museum of Islamic Art
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The Pearl-Qatar
The Pearl-Qatar
High-rise buildings in Doha
High-rise buildings in Doha
Doha at night
Doha at night
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