Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), which opened its office in India last year, has witnessed a growth of 20 per cent in 2018. The destination has witnessed a slight dip in arrivals in 2019, but looks to achieve its numbers by the year end. With a large Indian expat population, Qatar has been a popular destination amongst the VFR segment.
“India is a key source market for us, and our commitment to the market is evidenced by the opening last year of a dedicated office to tailor our offerings to this market. Visitor numbers in 2018 grew by 20 per cent from the year before, while 2019 has seen a dip. We are also home to a large expat population from India, so we have existing ties which we continue to nourish. Qatar and India have historical ties as well. The Indian market thus remains important for Qatar, and short travel times as well as a host of offerings in hospitality, retail and beyond, aligned with Indian visitors’ preferences,” Rashed AlQurese, Chief Marketing & Promotion Officer, QNTC, said.
With an increase in awareness about the destination in India, Qatar is now looking to tap the luxury travellers segment from India. Qatar also is home to some of the finest MICE venues in the region, and is now keen to target Indian MICE.
AlQurese added, “Historically, most Indian visitors to Qatar have been visiting friends and relatives. When we opened our office, our intent was to expand this segment apart from growing the FIT and leisure visitor segments. In particular, we target those seeking to experience Qatar’s luxury hospitality and unique cultural offerings. We work closely with Indian event planners and business events professionals to build awareness of Qatar’s growing portfolio of cultural, hospitality and MICE products and services for both business and leisure travellers. With 128 properties in the luxury and affordable luxury space, and visa free entry for Indian citizens, we are witnessing increasing interest from Indian planners looking for a novel destination to host their events.”
Also in the recent years, Indians are looking for unique destinations to tie nuptial knots; Qatar has been one of the new destinations in this segment. “We have seen great interest in Qatar as a wedding destination. A couple looking to tie the knot in magnificent ballrooms or against a backdrop of manicured vistas will find whatever they want in Qatar’s hassle-free locations which regularly cater to clients who have an appetite for modern luxury, grand entertainment and mouth-watering delights,” he added.
The year 2019 has been the Qatar-India Year of Culture, and throughout the year, Qatar hosted several cultural events. There was an AR Rahman concert, followed by a summer-time Bollywood musical show as well as the South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) and numerous exhibits featuring Indian artefacts and artists.
Speaking about the new products for India market AlQurese said, “Some of the major projects that were opened this year are the National Museum of Qatar, Doha Metro and a revamped Doha Port that will serve as a waterfront tourist hub. New hotels, attractions, and experiences are under development, making the country an increasingly attractive destination for visitors of all stripes – whether stopover, weekend trips, or long-stay visitors.”
One of the biggest events for the destination is the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2022. The destination is gearing up and opening new football stadiums and hotels to cater to the global football fans.
Speaking about promotional campaigns for FIFA World Cup 2022, he said, “The previous FIFA World Cups have yielded an average of one million visitors in the host countries, and we are expecting similar numbers. Naturally, there will be promotional campaigns globally, as it is the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East, and will coincide with the winter holidays. Qatar is also the most compact destination to host the World Cup, with fans being able to access multiple matches in a single day. We expect all these factors will help make this an attractive World Cup for everyone around the region to attend.”
To further make travel seamless, Qatar has opened its visa-free services for 80 countries, including India. “Qatar’s strategic location makes it easily accessible. Qatar’s visa waiver system, which allows citizens of more than 80 nationalities to enter Qatar visa-free, makes the country the most open in the region. Qatar Airways has 102 direct flights connecting 13 major cities in India to Doha to every week, making it easier than ever to travel between the two countries. An additional 100 flights per week connect Qatar and India via the Indian carriers; IndiGo and Air India.”
Travel trade has been a key driver for the tourism growth from India to Qatar. The destination is organising a series of engagement programmes to further connect with the travel trade segment.
“We have a comprehensive engagement plan, with roadshows and FAM trips to raise awareness among the Indian travel trade, along with many initiatives directed at consumer engagement. We also work closely with the Indian media, bloggers and influencers to showcase various facets of our tourism offering and promote the destination through various platforms to drive consumer conversion. Our office in India is responsible for a wide range of promotional initiatives, including workshops, sales visits, travel agent destination training through QNTC’s online Tawash programme,” he added.