Be There or Be Square

Doha will capitalize on the legacy of the World Cup to transform itself into a MICE tourism hub.

Doha will capitalize on the legacy of the World Cup to transform itself into a MICE tourism hub.

A particular type of event tourism has risen in popularity in recent years in the Gulf region. Meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) tourism brings together people who primarily have a business to attend to but would not say no to some fun while at it.

A MICE tourism destination needs to have as many conference rooms and exhibition halls as its beaches and eateries. The city of Doha has both. Doha has been a major business hub for years, with some 90% of the visitors to the city originally coming for business purposes.

But the city also has an endless list of leisure and recreational activities to offer.

In terms of accommodation, the hospitality sector has created over of 13,000 new hotel rooms during its preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Qatari investors in the hospitality sector are determined to keep the infrastructure after the World Cup, putting it to other uses once the event is over.

“The hospitality sector in Qatar is seen to expand growth opportunities beyond the World Cup with the government infusing huge investments to further develop the tourism sector, considering it as one of the key economic drivers of the country,” noted the Gulf Times in a 2021 article.

Fortunately, there is a niche in tourism that perfectly suits Doha. The city’s geographical location, as a layover destination between Europe and Asia makes it the perfect MICE destination. Doha is already the city where many people make their connecting flights while en route to Asia, Oceania, and Africa, as the city is truly located at a sweet point.

One of the airlines that uses Doha’s Hamad International Airport (HIA) as its aviation hub is the country’s own flag carrier, Qatar Airways, which serves an increasingly internationalized clientele. The Doha-based airline flies to and from 160 cities across the five continents, which makes Doha an even more perfect place for MICE tourism.

To encourage the number arrivals, Qatar has relaxed its visa policies ahead of the World Cup, which allows more people from around the world to attend exhibitions, events, or meetings held in Doha.

The country’s tourism authority is aware of Doha’s situation as a global stopover destination and is trying to encourage business travelers to “make the most of [their] stopover in Qatar” by experiencing the city’s leisure offerings as well as its business ecosystem.

The local tourism industry has come up with a number of value packages which combine a business trip to Doha with many aspects of a leisurely holiday.

A package offered by the Visit Qatar initiative, for instance, encourages business or stopover travelers to get “a taste of local culture, desert adventures, world-class shopping, fine dining, and much more.” It is highly likely that those who get a taste of Qatar during a business trip will return for long holidays.

The city has an exciting array of exhibition centers.

The Doha exhibition and convention center (DECC) located in the West Bay is constantly upgraded to keep up with the highest standards. Strategically located at the heart of Doha’s business district, DECC is conveniently close to a cluster of fine hotels and is often frequented by influential businesspeople from all over the world.

The Qatar national convention center (QNCC) was opened in Al Rayyan in 2011. QNCC brings together “a wide variety of corporate and cultural events under one roof,” including “prestigious international events, world-renowned artists, and some of the distinguished personalities.”

Qatar is not focused only on high-profile events such as the World Cup.

The country is volunteering to host all sorts of events, exhibitions, and trade shows which can have a reasonable attendance.

And Qatar is winning many of them thanks to its developed infrastructure. In 2023, for instance, Doha will host the Bureau International des Expositions’ 2023 World Horticultural Exposition under the theme of “Green Desert, Better Environment.”

Other events scheduled to take place in Doha in 2022 include the International Conference on Environment and Natural Science (August), the Cyber Security Summit (September), and the World Financial Symposium (September), among many other Doha was an upstanding MICE tourism destination even before bidding to host the World Cup. The sector had discovered the logic in combining business events with shopping, leisure, and recreation quite early on, when foreign businesspeople started to drop by in a growing number.

The World Cup, however, has thoroughly upgraded the nation’s hospitality sector, and much of the increased capacity will be maintained after the World Cup. Doha’s luxurious way of life, high level of connectivity to the world, and welcoming attitude to foreign visitors will secure its position as an ideal MICE tourism destination when the World Cup is finally over.

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