‘We would like to see India move up to the top five source markets’
Qatar is gearing up to host the Football World Cup this year. Philip Dickinson, Vice President International Markets, Qatar Tourism, in an interaction with TravelBiz Monitor, talks about the upcoming global spectacle, and the preparedness of the destination to grab eyeballs.
Q. Qatar is set to host the Football World Cup, the biggest sporting event, this year. How are you trying to gain enough traction from the Indian market?
In recent years, Qatar Tourism has taken a proactive approach to the Indian market. Following the restrictions being lifted and the World Cup, we are going to implement a comprehensive strategy. The work we did prior to the pandemic has helped set the ground running, resulting in positive traction from the Indian market. We are seeing increased interest from Indian tourists, and the business travel segment, particularly MICE has picked up in a big way.
We are anticipating a large global audience for the Football World Cup and India will contribute to these numbers. We are extremely excited about this event. While we do not expect many Indians travelling to the World Cup, we do foresee millions of tourists from the large football community. We are building a lot of hotel inventory, and our hotels have already received 80% bookings for the World Cup. Right now, all of our efforts are focused on ensuring that everyone visiting Qatar for the World Cup has a seamless and positive experience.
Q. In terms of trade and digital outreach, Qatar Tourism has been proactive. What are some of the plans for the year?
Qatar is now completely open for tourism. We have full-fledged dedicated teams that engage with the trade and media for our digital marketing activities. We are also considering expanding our trade engagement with training programmes and destination specialist certification. Besides MICE, the focus is to entice tourists to spend one or two nights in Doha, as the airport has evolved into a transit hub encouraged by Qatar Airways connections. All the stadiums built for the FIFA World Cup, are also in and around Doha.
Q. How are you going to sustain the momentum generated from the World Cup?
All our energies are focused on the World Cup right now. We are planning a series of activities for our key source markets immediately following the World Cup. India currently is among our top 10 source markets; we would like to see it move up to the top five. There will be a lot of tourism activities after the World Cup, including media and corporate FAMs, etc., from India and rest of the region. We also expect a significant increase in regional travel between Qatar and the GCC countries.
Q. Qatar opened up its borders for tourism with visa on arrival for 90 countries couple of years ago. How has been the response to the initiative?
Qatar now offers visa-free access for more than 95 countries, and we have seen the benefits of this process with a significant number of tourist arrivals over the years. The country is constantly evolving to ensure visitors have a seamless and memorable trip from the time they plan their visit until they bid adieu. As previously stated, we are working to establish Qatar as a world-class destination and welcoming more than six million visitors a year by 2030. To accomplish this, we are diversifying and broadening our appeal, putting guests at the centre of everything we do.
Q. What were the number of Indian tourists to Qatar in 2019? What is your vision for growth by end of 2023?
We identified six demand spaces based on our 2030 vision: Sun, Sea, and Sand; Active Holidays; Relax & Rejuvenate; and Cultural Enthusiasts. Based on this approach, we are optimistic about leveraging our tourism assets. We want to highlight the various aspects that Qatar has to offer not only in the run-up to the FIFA World Cup, but also beyond. In India, we are attempting to appeal to a diverse range of audiences, including leisure, MICE, and weddings and celebrations. Furthermore, with new infrastructure being constructed, we hope to attract corporate travellers as well. We have seen a significant increase in arrivals from India prior to the pandemic, and we look forward to accelerating our efforts to maintain momentum and fully unlock the potential of travellers.