Posted on February 23, 2011

Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) chairman Tuesday dismissed talk of re-scheduling Doha Jewellery and Watch Exhibition after the Basselworld show saying the target audience of the two events is different.

Speaking to Qatar News Agency (QNA) in an exclusive interview QTA chief Ahmed Al Nuaimi said, "Changing the dates will not make any difference since Basselworld show is focused on companies aiming wholesales with deliveries after six to nine months while the DJWE aims at retailing. The current dates suit us perfectly.'' Some participants at the eighth edition of DJWE, which concluded here earlier this week, suggested hosting the Doha event after Basselworld which will be held from March 24 to 31 this year.

DJWE, scheduled between two key jewellery and watches exhibitions in Switzerland - the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva and Baselworld in Basel, nevertheless attracts the world's leading brands of jewellers and watchmakers. Irrespective of the dates, DJWE has expanded since it first started eight years ago to become part of the preview series for the latest collections due to its high criteria. "DJWE has become a major show in the region due to our high standards which are endorsed by the quality of participants from abroad," said Al Nuaimi. "This is the reason companies from the region participate and it is now attracting exhibitors from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and UAE. We have proved the success of the show due to our commitment to high standards.''

Indeed the number of visitors to the expo has increased over the years. This year the number was approximately 35,000. "Every year we have been having increasing number of people. The show was not that great last year," the QTA chief conceded. "It was due to the financial crisis. However, this year it was very successful. A lot of people and companies are happy with the outcome of the show. There was high level of purchasing. Many brand new pieces were displayed for the first time in Doha. Sales were very high."

Does QTA's focus remain on high-end business and expo tourists? "Yes we are focusing on high end and not on mass tourism," he said. "We have been delivering our promises in creating shows and going around the world on promotional tours to attract the type of people that we think would enjoy Qatar. "The country's infrastructure is being built based on high-end people. HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has focused on initiatives in culture, history (museums) and on creating a destination which should be appreciated.

"Qatar is a small country and we don't want it to be over crowded because we have been saying, 'we want to preserve our history, our culture and tradition'. If we don't do that we will lose it. We try out best not to lose our identity. Our focus has always been on MICE (Meetings, Initiatives, Conferences and Exhibitions) business, sports, culture and soon there will be education tourism with Qatar Foundation universities and colleges. In the future there will be medical tourism."

Sports tourism is one of the key sectors Qatar has pursued over the last decade. Truly, the country's sports federations, working under the aegis of Qatar Olympic Committee, are racing ahead with their plans to showcase the world s major sports tournaments. Last December, the country won the bid to host the 2022 edition of FIFA World Cup under the dynamic leadership of Qatar's 2022 World Cup Bid Committee Chairman HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani. Qatar followed this success by the winning the rights last month in Sweden to host here the Men s World Handball Championship in 2015. This successful bid was led by Qatar Olympic Committee Secretary General Sheikh Saoud Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Besides these two premier world tournaments, Qatar regularly hosts men's ATP and WTA tennis tournaments like the Qatar Ladies Open currently on here at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex as well as PGA Golf, athletics, cycling, table tennis, and motorsports events among other.

With Qatar hosting so many sports tournaments besides MICE events, extending visa-on-arrival facility to visitors from many countries would be ideal. Al Nuaimi said, "Every country has its own regulations. We already have this facility which covers 34 countries. This also depends upon the countries that we (Qatar) go to." The increasing number of high profile MICE events would, perhpas, necessitate an increase in hospitality and entertainment options in the country.

"There are many more dining out options available compared to a few years ago," he said. "Now we have many good restaurants outside the star hotels, you have Chinese, Korean, Japanese and many other varieties. Such development cannot be done overnight. You need to look at the type of people you need to cater to. Seven to six years ago Qatar's population was around 600,000 now it's around 1.7 million. They all have different kinds of tastes.

"Five years ago there were only 10,000 Lebanese people, today we have 50,000. So there are many nice Lebanese restaurants to cater to them. Look at the Indian community, earlier there were only small eateries catering to their needs. Now we have many new restaurants in places like the Souq Waqif which serve Indian cuisine. Similarly, now there are Italian restaurants here. Now there are many more options for entertainment, earlier it was restricted." With Qatar's tourism initiatives entering the fast lane comparison with Dubai are inevitable. However, the QTA chief rejected such comparisons.

"I will never, ever compare Qatar with Dubai. Many people often tell me compare yourself with Dubai. I said, 'I will never do this'. Dubai is a successful story. Qatar will be a success story in a different way. We should not follow in Dubai's footsteps. I have always said, our strategy, our thinking is different. Dubai has a different thought, we have a different thought. Although we share religion, culture and traditions, out strategy is different. They look at mass tourism, we don't look at mass tourism, but in the end we complement each other.''

Comparisons can often be a futile exercise. Besides religion and culture, the commonality between Dubai and Doha begins and ends with the letter D. Both destinations have something different to offer tourists. Qatar certainly looks poised to tell a different success story in the near future.