Posted on December 26, 2018

Qatar's leadership has identified tourism as one of five priority sectors for achieving economic diversification in Qatar. This year has witnessed a number of milestone developments making 2018 a turning point for tourism in Qatar.

Here are the year's highlights:

National Tourism Council is established by Emiri Decree: Among the most important developments is the Emiri decree to establish Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) under the chairmanship of HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, effectively fast-tracking the development initiatives outlined in the National Tourism Sector Strategy (QNTSS).

Expansion in International Markets: QNTC has made significant efforts in diversifying visitor source markets and promoting Qatar as an attractive tourism destination. In 2018, six representative offices were opened in three of the world's largest visitor source markets - China, India and Russia. According to Euromonitor 2018, Doha was ranked among the Top 100 City Destinations worldwide.

Qurated for you. A Global Promotion Campaign: In November 2018, QNTC launched Qatar's first global destination campaign. Under the tagline ‘Qatar. Qurated for you.’, the campaign brings to life Qatar’s focus on tailored visitor experiences that celebrate its heritage, and is being rolled out in eight languages across 15 existing and targeted priority markets targeting 250 million travellers around the world.

2018 a turning point for tourism [].jpgRecognition as Region Leaders: Thanks to the numerous steps Qatar has taken to ease visitor access, the UNWTO ranked Qatar as the most open country in the Middle East and the 8th most open country in the world. And, according to the latest Guest Experience in the Middle East Report, released by hospitality and travel data providers Olery, Qatar's hospitality sector has further improved its guest experience ranking from first place among the GCC to first place in the Middle East.

Destination Weddings Come to Doha: Thanks to Doha's hassle-free locations with magnificent ballrooms and manicured vistas that regularly cater to clients who have an appetite for modern luxury, grand entertainment and mouth-watering delights, Qatar is emerging as an attractive wedding destination for couples looking to tie the knot abroad. The growth in this area has been made possible thanks to the close collaboration between the hospitality sector, the Ministry of the Interior, Qatar Airways and the General Authority of Customs. Six Indian weddings have so far been confirmed for 2019.

Enhancing Visitor Experience: 2018 witnessed the launch of the Al Enna project which covers an area of 6 million m2 in Sealine and Khor AlAdaid and aims to enhance the visitor's coastal and desert experience – a key objective of the Next Chapter of QNTSS 2018-2023. The Al Enna project is an initial phase of a comprehensive plan to develop the region over a five-year period. The plan entails the development of roads, beaches, camp infrastructure and the region in general.

Cruise Tourism Sets Sail: This year, Doha Port welcomed two mega ships on the same day, marking a major step in the development of the tourism sub-sector. 2018 also witnessed the signing of MoUs with two of Europe's leading cruise operators which will help in further developing Qatar's cruise tourism. In the last cruise season which ended in April of this year, Qatar welcomed 22 cruise ships carrying more than 65,000 cruise passengers - a 39% increase from the 2016/17 season. The ongoing 2018/19 cruise season which kicked off in October and continues until April 2019, is expected to see nearly double the number of cruise ships that arrived in the previous season and bring 140,000 visitors to Qatar's shores.

A Rich Calendar of Events: This year, Qatar hosting 131 exhibitions and conferences in various fields. In 2018, Qatar won the rights to host six major business events to be held between 2019 and 2022 with a prospective number of participants reaching up to 2,400. Local exhibitions continued to attract visitors and participants from Qatar and the world. In this regard, more than 1,000 brands took part in the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, the Arabian Fashion Exhibition and the Qatar Motor Show, attracting more than 65,000 visitors in 2018.

QNTC continued to organise new editions of nation-wide festivals such as QIFF, QSF and Shop Qatar to which serve to energise tourism-related sectors, such as retail, F&B and hospitality as well as provide platforms for local entrepreneurs to showcase their products and services.

A Global Destination for Sports: QNTC has been working to leverage the country's state-of-the-art sports facilities to bolster Qatar's position as a world-class sports destination. In 2019, Doha will host the World Corporate Games, which will be held for the first time in the Middle East and is expected to attract about 8,000 international and local participants. QNTC is also continuing its support for local sports events such as the Esrar Race, AlAdaid Desert Challenge, Doha Triathlon and the Qatar Motorcycle Grand Prix (MotoGP).

Developing the Tourism Sector: In line with the Next Chapter's focus on developing and boosting the sector's professional skills and competitiveness, QNTC partnered with the Union of International Fairs (UFI) to deliver an event management training programme which resulted in the certification of 20 professionals in the business events sector.

In addition, QNTC launched its tour guide training programme which resulted in 137 tour guides who speak 20 different languages being officially licensed. A special training and licensing programme including modules on safe four-wheel drive training and emergency response was launched with more than 200 4x4 safari tour guides participating and being certified.