The Arabian Travel Market, the biggest tourist show in the Arab world which was held in May in Dubai with a focus on luxury family travel, witnessed a strong presentation of the big Qatari tourism-related companies like Qatar Airways and Katara Hospitality.
At their lively stand, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), which led a delegation of representatives from 30 hotels, tour operators and travel agencies announced the 2015 Qatar Summer Festival, and presented its plans for Entertainment City. The Summer Festival will be held through August, and will offer various shows, concerts, movie screenings, theater performances among other events.
Commenting on the post-show impressions, QTA Chief Marketing and Promotions Officer Rashed Al Qurese, in his statement to BQ emphasises Qatar had a strong overall presence at ATM. “We were particularly pleased with the discussions at the UNWTO Ministerial Forum on ways to enhance intra-Arab tourism, a fruitful conversation we were able to continue in Qatar on a GCC level during the GCC Tourism Undersecretaries meeting.
There is a strong focus now on the development of the GCC tourism sector and boosting intra-GCC tourism in ways that build on the success of initiatives such as the Cruise Arabia Alliance – another collaboration that we were proud to participate in at ATM,” he says adding the QTA is also very grateful to the Arab Tourism Ministers for their support of Qatar’s proposal to issue a joint statement condemning the destruction of heritage sites in the region, an issue that QTA feel strongly about.
Ideal family destination
“Our offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dubai have enhanced Qatar’s on-the-ground presence in the Kingdom engaging in pro-active marketing to tour operators, travel agencies and event organisers throughout the GCC. QTA’s message is that Qatar is an exciting and convenient destination for both business and leisure travel, with special appeal for families seeking a luxury break”.
According to Al Qurese’s statement published in media before the ATM, tourists from the GCC, who visited Qatar, accounted for 1.12 million visitors last year, some 40 percent of Qatar’s worldwide total.
“The country’s excellent ‘facilities for family entertainment’ is a key theme in the QTA’s GCC promotions. Doha’s hotels offer children’s pools, well-equipped safe play areas, babysitting services, children’s menus and all the other services to cater to a family’s complete needs while facilities are also excellent outside of the hotel complexes,” QTA’s chief marketing & promotions officer points out.
According to the YouGov Family Travel Study, unveiled at ATM 2015, 64 percent of more than 2,000 MENA based survey respondents travelled with their children in the last 12 months. The survey, which was based on outbound travel from the region, revealed families are taking an average of two trips per year, and those with younger children (0-12 years) tend to travel more often than those with 13 to 18-year-olds, taking three or more trips annually.
Top ranked reasons for family travel were visiting friends and family, taking a resort or beach holiday, Eid holiday travel, shopping, nature holidays, city breaks, sightseeing and religious tourism. Accommodation preferences are four or five-star hotels in the city center, and staying at friends or family houses.
Talking about the soon-to-be-open Summer Festival, Al Qurese says: “One of the biggest attractions for QTA at ATM was the launch of the Qatar Summer Festival. We are working to make GCC consumers aware that Qatar offers ideal packages for top quality accommodation, cultural attractions, shopping, dining and other leisure activities appealing to regional travellers and our hotel partners provide value-added offers with great incentives during the month of August to support the Qatar Summer Festival activities.”
Qatar, whose hotel and tourism sector saw over USD 2.5 billion in contracts awarded in 2014, witnessed 2.8 million visitors enter the country last year, an 8.2 percent increase compared to 2013. Tourist visits generated 61,000 jobs and provided an economic injection of USD 7.6 billion, equal to 8.3 percent of Qatar’s non-extraction GDP, while hotel occupancy rates increased to an average of 73 percent in 2014.
Observing the ATM 2015 from the point of view of Katara Hospitality, the global hotel owner, developer and operator based in Qatar, Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, CEO and Board Member of Katara Hospitality, underlines the Arabian Travel Market, as the region’s leading travel and tourism event is the really important to Katara hospitality.
“We are able to showcase our growing portfolio of international hotels to the industry, all under one roof. This year was particularly important for Katara Hospitality as we showcased, for the first time, our Murwab Hotel Group which is an international collection of upscale boutique hotels and brands across three main business areas which were represented at ATM for the first time: Murwab Hotels, The Bürgenstock Selection (Switzerland) and a collection of independent non-branded upscale properties,” he states.
As a significant event in this year’s presentation at the ATM, Al-Mulla highlighted Katara’s newly opened landmark hotels which included The Peninsula Paris, one of the most luxurious destinations in Europe, and Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan. “It was also the first time we were able to highlight five of our recently acquired InterContinental hotels – InterContinental Carlton Cannes; InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam; InterContinental Madrid; InterContinental Frankfurt and InterContinental De La Ville Rome,” he says.
“It was great to be able to offer insight into the Katara Hospitality luxury experience. The event as a whole was an opportunity to show that having recently surpassed our target of having 30 hotels by 2016 two years ahead of schedule, we are continuing to focus on adding 30 more iconic properties to our portfolio by 2026,” he adds.
For this year, Katara’s Hospitality newly introduced Murwab Hotels Group plans to open in Doha five new hotels: Simaisma, a Murwab Resort; the Grand Murwab City Center; The Avenue, a Murwab Hotel; the Saraya Corniche Hotel and City Gate Hotel.
The current year for Qatar tourism is more than promising with numbers supporting the goal of surpassing 3 million visitors by the end of 2015. QTA statistics show in Q1 of 2015, regional and international visitor arrivals to the country totalled 841,025, an 11 percent increase compared to the same period in 2014, with hotel occupancy rates up to 80 percent. Arrivals of GCC visitors jumped by 16 percent, especially in March, when visitor arrivals grew by 82 percent compared to March 2014, with 241,008 Saudi visitors entering Qatar.
More global routes
A large number of tourists came to Qatar by Doha-based global carrier Qatar Airways, whose presence at ATM 2015 included a presentation of their new first and business class, and the announcement of new routes. Visitors to the Qatar Airways stand had an opportunity to experience A380 first class and business class seats.
The Airbus 380-800 is the biggest wide-body plane in the world with a capacity of over 500 passengers. Qatar Airways have four of these mega-aircraft in their fleet, and nine more on order, according to their website.
Along with the possibility of trying new seats, visitors could discover Qatar Airways exclusive on-board offerings of the A380, as well as those of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Airbus A350 XWB. Also, the airline revealed new branding of the inflight entertainment system Oryx One, and launched the Doha – Dubai Shuttle Service, offering 18 daily flights between Doha and Dubai at special fares, with dedicated check-in counters, reduced check-in times and fast-track immigration.
Group Chief Executive, H.E. Akbar Al Baker announced the commencement of a new daily service to Ras Al Khaimah International Airport in the UAE, and signed a strategic joint business partnership with Royal Air Maroc.
The airline also revealed their plans to expand their service to the US – flights to Los Angeles will start on 1 January, 2016, followed by Boston on 16 March and Atlanta on 1 July; and a second daily flight to New York, all despite the ongoing subsidy row between the biggest Gulf carriers and US airlines.
US carriers claim the “big three” GCC airlines benefited from USD 42 billion of subsidies from their government. Al Baker, who after the ATM visited Washington, called the accusations “a transparent attempt to block new competition and limit consumer choice”. Qatar Airways serves 146 destinations around the world, and it plans to increase its global portfolio to 152 locations across Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, North America and South America.
The Middle Eastern travel market, estimated at USD 72 billion, is set for further growth, and this boom was very well observed at the biggest regional industry gathering. This year marked the 22nd edition of the Arabian Travel Market, and official data shows the event had an excess of 26,000 visitors recorded, representing a 15 percent increase on 2014 figures. The people behind ATM have already started preparations for next year’s event, scheduled from 25 to 28 April, and focusing on mid-market travel.