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Congress Destination Qatar: Interview with Ahmed AlObaidli, Director of Exhibitions QTA
Qatar is a new world class destination for congresses and events. In conversation with Ahmed AlObaidli, Director of Exhibitions, Qatar Tourism Autority, we find out more about what Qatar has to offer to the European and Global MICE industry:.
Q: How is increased accessibility supporting the growth of the MICE sub-sector in Qatar?
A: Accessibility is a major consideration for international meeting planners and delegates and a key pillar of Qatar’s MICE offering. Strategically located at the crossroads of East and West, Qatar is conveniently located within 6 hours’ flying time from most European capitals, and 9 hours from major Far Eastern and North American cities. The award-winning national carrier, Qatar Airways flies to over 150 destinations across six continents, most of which are direct routes.
Q: Safety is a major concern for the meeting industry. What is Qatar’s position on this topic?
A: Qatar is blessed to be among the countries with the lowest crime rates and is a safe destination where visitors need have little concern walking in any part of the city. The country is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.
• Among the top 10 safest countries in the world (WEF Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017)
• ‘Most Peaceful Nation in MENA’ 2009 - 2017 (Global Peace Index)
Q: How does QTA plan to capitalise on the recently-introduced visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries?
A: As part of QTA’s efforts to attract more visitors and diversify source markets, we work closely with partners at the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Airways to facilitate access to the country. One of these measures is the recent free visa waiver for nationals of 80 countries, which makes Qatar the most open country in the GCC region.
This development paves the way for us to attract international business events with a diverse delegates base and target markets beyond Europe and the US.
Q: How can QTA facilitate access and exchange with local experts and universities to congress organisers to win future congresses?
A: QTA regularly hosts fam trips in which it invites industry players from across the world to experience the destination’s offerings first hand and have an opportunity to meet with local hosts.
To increase influence and impact, QTA also encourages and empowers local experts with the information and tools they need to have these conversations independently. Our network of Medyaf ambassadors are fully briefed on the processes involved in bringing an event to Qatar.
Q: What is your view on India as a provider of meetings and events for Qatar?
A: Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry. In August of this year, Qatar waived the entry visa for citizens of 80 countries; Indian nationals are among those 80 nationalities which paves the way for us to get a foothold in the Indian MICE market.
One of our focuses in 2018 will be to expand our BE promotion and marketing efforts in India to help position Qatar as a as a welcoming, authentic and easily-accessible business events destination in India. This is supported by QTA’s recent announcement to open a representative office in India by year end.
Q: International congresses can leave a strong legacy in destinations they visit, much beyond the “direct” impact on infrastructure involved. What topics/industries are economically the most interesting to Qatar?
A: The business events industry is aligned with other sectors in Qatar that the country’s leadership has identified as national priorities. Qatar National Vision 2030 prioritises education, environment, construction, sports and naturally, oil and gas, so Qatar tends to host a high concentration of events in these fields. Conferences and conventions taking place in Qatar also reflect the level of overall activity in these sectors.
In addition to being home to Qatar Foundation’s Education City, which houses several international higher education institutes, Qatar is a big spender on research: 2.7% of the national GDP is dedicated to scientific research, specifically biomedical, computing and environmental research.
This has raised Qatar’s profile as a destination for scientists and researchers, who are looking for not only a meeting place, but also a place where they can continue to learn, share knowledge and experience something new, outside of the walls of a conference hall.
Q: What direct incentives can you offer to congress organisers, when planning an international event in Qatar?
A: QTA treats each business event uniquely on a case by case basis to customise its level and type of support based on requirements, potential economic impact on tourism and potential legacy impacts. The type of support that can be offered includes:
• Subvention, both financial & in-kind
• Connecting event organisers with government and private entities
• Connecting event organisers with local event stakeholders and suppliers including Qatar Airways’ QMICE programme, DMCs,
hotels, venues, local PCOs etc.
• Visa facilitation support, if required
• Hosting site inspections
About Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA):
Qatar Tourism Authority’s mission is to firmly establish Qatar on the global map as a place where cultural authenticity meets modernity, and where people of the world come together to experience unique offerings in culture, sports, business and family entertainment.
In 2014, QTA launched the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy (QNTSS), which seeks to diversify the country’s tourism offering and increase the sector’s contribution to Qatar’s economy by 2030. In 2017, the Next Chapter of QNTSS was launched, charting the next five years (2017-2023) of the tourism sector’s growth.
Since launching QNTSS, Qatar has welcomed over 10 million visitors. The economic impact of the tourism sector in Qatar is becoming increasingly visible with 2016 estimates showing a total (direct and indirect) contribution to Qatar’s GDP of 6.7%.
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