Following the creation of the Qatar National Tourism Council, the Gulf nation has seen a rapid increase in visitors, drawing record tourism numbers in 2019.
Since it won a bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has been rising as an international destination for travelers, who are curious to discover the rich heritage and fast-paced life of the Gulf nation. The country’s tourism industry has also made significant strides over the last decade with the help of the top-ranked Qatar Airways, with connections to 172 destinations around the world. With the goal of continuing positive growth in the tourism sector, the Amir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani established the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) on November 4, 2018. Headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the QNTC has since helped draw record numbers of tourists to the nation, welcoming nearly 1.2 million visitors during the first seven months of 2019, about a 10.7% increase YoY. According to recent data, 469,100 visitors were from Asia, compromising 39%, 375,500 were from Europe, or about 31%, while the number of visitors from GCC countries reached 131,600 or about 11%. Such remarkable growth has been achieved through the development of better tourism infrastructure and governance of the tourism sector, which aims to diversify the broader Qatari economy, one of the key objectives of the Qatar National Vision 2030. Apart from greater marketing and promotion of Qatar for both leisure and business travel, the QNTC was established to aid in strategic industry planning and development. The council also oversees the implementation of a comprehensive plan to promote investment opportunities in the tourism sector, while providing the management and execution of regulatory affairs regarding business establishment and tourism licenses for swift government services. In 2020, the QNTC will establish three new entities that will operate under its oversight, including the Qatar Tourism Promotion Company, the Qatar Tourism Development Company, and the Qatar Business Events Company. Together, this network of governmental agencies will replace the Qatar Tourism Authority to coordinate and consolidate efforts for key members and stakeholders in the travel sector. Without missing a step, the QNTC has moved quickly to increase outreach efforts and promote Qatar as an international destination. In recent months, the council has opened representative offices in major markets such as the US, the UK, France, Turkey, Russia, India, China, and Southeast Asia. The development comes with the welcome announcement by the World Tourism Organization that recognized Qatar as the most open country for travelers in the Middle East and eighth-most open destination in the world. The designation highlights the state’s open visa policies, which allow citizens from 88 countries to enter Qatar visa-free and take advantage of the countries central geographic position for both travel and business convenience. Such momentum will only accelerate as new state-supported initiatives seek to draw more visitors to the nation through a fast expanding events calendar, showcasing world-class artists, musicians, and expositions. In November 2019, a 22-member delegation led by the QNTC participated in the World Travel Market 2019 forum in London. State and private-sector partners including Qatar Airways, Katara Hospitality, and various hotel business representatives highlighted key developments in the Qatari tourism sector, including an 8% increase in occupancy rates in the first three quarters of 2019.
Bolstered by events like the Shop Qatar Festival, the Qatar International Food Festival, and Qatar Live concerts of Katy Perry and Maroon 5, the number of visitors to Qatar is projected to continue growing in the coming years under the management of the QNTC.