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Posted On: 13 July 2008 01:09 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:08 pm

Destination Doha

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UNITED NATIONS • Although Doha's hotels were slightly less full during the first quarter of 2008 than against the same period last year, the outlook for tourism in Qatar remains positive, according to a new UN report. The UN's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) released statistics this week that show hotel occupancy in the capital dropped to 78.3 percent between January and April, compared to 82 percent for the same months in 2007. Nevertheless, Qatar hoteliers should remain positive, with the number of arrivals to the Middle East up by an impressive 12.5 percent in that period, according to the UNWTO's biannual World Tourism Barometer. John Kester, head of UNWTO's market trends department, said Qatar was reaping the benefits of converting the sun-rich country into an attractive holiday destination with impressive hotel, entertainment and air travel projects. Officials in Doha and across the Gulf "have been investing quite substantially in tourism and tourism has really moved up on the agenda," Kester said. "Also, airlines like Qatar Airways and Emirates have been very active in capturing demand and increasing their routes." The report cites 120,000 new hotel rooms slated to become available across the Gulf as well as $30bn being invested in the region's airports, three quarters of which is being undertaken in the UAE. Meanwhile, Qatar has struck a deal with South Africa to increase flights between the two destinations and has also signed a memorandum of understanding to build a $70m hotel in the Cuban resort of Cayo Largo del Sur, the report said. Kester said Qatar is benefiting from increased regional wealth, with a growing number of middle-income earners from across the Arab World spending cash on holidays. The travel expert described an "emerging middle classes in a number of Middle East countries" who can afford to travel abroad, as well as greater holiday options within the region. The report showed that despite a bleak world economic prognosis people were still willing to splash out on holidays. The report records a 5 per cent increase in international tourism from January to April, against the same period last year. While Qatar fared well, impressive rates of growth were recorded in up-and-coming Gulf destinations such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, respectively achieving a 10.5 percent and 32.6 percent increase in arrivals. But UNWTO researchers spot trouble on the horizon for Qatar travel chiefs when the current hotel construction projects are completed and tourists can choose from a plethora of holiday options. "A market correction is likely to happen as the new supply is absorbed, with lower occupancy and a decline in average rate expected, especially in the UAE and Qatar," the report said. A further problem stems from the lack of experienced managers, chefs and other hotel staff in the region presenting a "major headache in terms of qualified human resource availability", researchers said. While Qatar and other Gulf destinations currently benefit from high oil prices, "the region will not remain immune to their impact because of the cost of travel from key source countries" such as those in Western Europe, the report warns. http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&month=July2008&file=World_News200807132849.xml