Tourism in Qatar
Qatar is currently focusing on tourism, as a means of growth. The government plans to increase the number of visitors from 964,000 as of 2007 to 1.5m by 2010 under the ruthless five-year development plan of the Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (QTEA). The funding needed to meet this goal is already there, in 2008 the state owed some $17 billion for tourism development through 2014, most of which is going towards hotels, exhibition space and infrastructure. To help keeping up with a rising number of visitors, the government expects to increase hotel capacity by 400% by 2012. In addition to financial support, the government also has worked to ease business regulations in a bid to increase private sector activity. The main aspect of expansion plans is the New Doha International Airport (NDIA), which will be capable to handle up to 24m passengers upon the completion of the first phase in 2012. Considering the huge majority of these visitors are members of the business community, the government has naturally targeted the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions segment as a practical source of development, with two new convention centers slated to open in 2011. Other place tourism segments receiving special focus include cultural tourism on the back of the recent headline-grabbing opening of Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, and sports tourism, initially spurred by the Asian Games, to which Qatar played host in 2006. The government seems to be committed to long-term expansion plans, but challenges nevertheless remain, including effective marketing to the international community as well as the effect of the financial crisis on global tourism appetite.