3/15/2017 7:23:19 AM

Qatar should look at Asia for giving thrust to sports tourism

Qatar should look at Asia for  giving thrust to sports tourism

AT A TIME when serious concerns are raised about the lack of fans at various sports venues in our country, it’s heartening to note that the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) is aiming to almost double its income in the next 10 years. 

It’s reported in the local media that by 2026, the tourism sector’s contribution is expected to reach QR81.2bn from QR48.5bn in 2015 and, by 2030, the QTA is targeting 10 million visitors a year, hoping to raise its annual earnings manifold.

Qatar is also set to invest heavily in new developments, which include earmarking funds for 2022 World Cup facilities and associated projects.

So far, so good. But a recent study conducted by the Tourism Committee of Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry revealed that there’re several challenges facing the industry.

The committee, headed by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdulla Al Thani, exposed several obstacles facing the tourism sector. According to it, shortage of entertainment places in Qatar, compared to some of its neighbouring countries, is one of the principal reasons for failing to attract foreign visitors. It has a ripple effect as well, as the nationals too prefer to spend their holidays abroad.

The chamber pointed out that the relatively-high fares charged by Qatar Airways and the weak promotion abroad for the country as a tourist destination too are hampering the sector’s growth. Difficulty in issuance of tourist visas is also cited as a deterrent. The committee also suggested more thrust should be given to sports tourism.

It’s true we aren’t making efforts to market our annual mega sports events to the desired level. With the changing economic scenario worldwide, there’s no point in still focusing on the European market to get sports fans to come and watch events in Doha. Several European countries, including Spain and Greece, to name but a few, are facing financial crisis.

On the contrary, we should try and market our events in emerging economies like China and India. The burgeoning middle class in these countries can now easily afford to travel overseas and for most of them there’ll be some novelty in these events, unlike their European or American counterparts who’ve all, perhaps, seen it before.

But as much as we wish to be comfortable and secure when we go abroad, we should also try our best to make visitors feel at home in our country. It’s our collective responsibility.

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