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Qatar Courts Tourism MarketJanuary 1, 2007 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
Last month's Asian Games went on as scheduled, just as they have every four years since 1951. By the name of the event, one would assume that the games are held each year in Asia, perhaps somewhere in China or Japan. Not this year.
The 15th Asian Games were held in
the capital city of
Middle Eastern peninsula that juts 100 miles out into the Persian Gulf off of
its southern neighbor,
held in the region since 1974, when
is considered both part of the Middle East and western Asia, the selection of
the Games was met by ridicule and disdain by many of the other countries vying
for the honor. Invariably, their reasoning was the same:
influenced the selection.
Yes, Qatar is the richest Arab nation per capita—it has the
highest gross domestic product in the developing world, primarily due to oil
exports—and while that might be a detriment to other countries contending to
host sporting events, the new wealth has been a windfall for Qatar's tourism
industry, which has welcomed a steady influx of leisure travelers over the past
decade, aided by the creation of the Qatar Tourism Authority in 2000.
Needless to say, the vast oil and gas reserves have always
business travel, but the expansion of
construction of additional infrastructure in preparation for the Asian Games
will serve as an enabler for future leisure travel.
Entertainment City: 2009 Debut
One of the biggest undertakings serving to spur
announcement, which ran concurrently with the Asian Games, of a $3 billion
completion by 2009. The plan is at the center of
new Lusail development, which is essentially a
being built just to the north of
The development will abut a large blue water lagoon with two
marinas and will house many other facilities, including two golf courses. Abu
Dhabi Investment House is behind
3.9-square-mile mixed-use development consisting of hospitality, leisure and
recreational facilities. The destination will have theme parks, themed hotels,
shopping, restaurants, a water park and a cinema complex.
Rashad Janahi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Investment House, said the
planned development would add momentum to
attract a broad demographic of visitors.
Accommodating new visitors to the region is one thing
equipped to do over the next couple of years. As it stands now, hotels in the
expensive due in part to low supply. However, that will all change by the end
of the decade. With 40 confirmed hotel projects in the hopper,
hotel rooms in the next two years. By the end of 2007, there will be more than
8,000 new rooms in the area, and the 2009 addition of
will set the hotel room count at 15,000 rooms.
Yet, Jacky Keith, president of Esplanade Tours in
is more of a stopover attraction for
travelers on their way to
while Europeans consider it a destination in itself.
"Americans are not using it as a destination yet,"
Keith says. "I've booked a few nights there for travelers on their way to
country has a lot of money, so it could become a destination, like
travelers down the line."