AIMING TO POSITION QATAR AS A WELL-DEFINED DESTINATION FOR ALL
With a notable influx of visitors, particularly from Asia, Qatar has successfully positioned itself as a captivating destination, offering a harmonious blend of modern and traditional attractions. In an enlightening interview with June Mukherjee from The Asian Footprints, Philip Dickinson, Vice President, International Markets of Qatar Tourism explores tourism issues beyond the football extravaganza.
June Mukherjee, AFP Exclusive, June 2023
After the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, how do you perceive the development of tourism perception of Qatar as a tourist destination from all over the world, especially from Asia?
We started our marketing campaigns prior to the World Cup, but with the tournament being watched by over 5 billion people worldwide, we have seen a tremendous amount of interest in our hotels and attractions. Asia, particularly India and China, is a crucial market for us. We are focused on these two markets and will be launching campaigns and engaging in various trade activities, working closely with travel agencies, media outlets, influencers, bloggers, and content creators. We aim to maintain the momentum and collaborate with key travel providers. India is our second-largest source market, and we remain dedicated to strengthening our trade sales efforts. We are excited about the potential of the Asian market. Additionally, we are fortunate to have the world's best airlines, such as Qatar Airways, serving major cities in India, including first, second, and three tier cities. We also have Indigo and Air India operating flights. We hope to attract more airlines to serve the Asian market in the future.
Now, as you promoted Qatar during last year's FIFA 2022, with football in the spotlight, how would you define the pivotal journey of tourism promotion for Qatar?
The World Cup sells itself, right? Because there were 32 countries and their passionate fans who came and wanted to enjoy Qatar. So, we were very happy to welcome them. It was all about providing a fantastic fan experience and ensuring smooth operational execution. Thus, everyone could witness how warm and welcoming Qatar is.
Additionally, there were numerous attractions and activities for visitors to explore in Qatar. While some of the 32 participating teams may not have been our priority source market from a tourism perspective, the fact that the whole world was watching the World Cup allowed us to accelerate our post-World Cup plans and prioritise countries that align with our strategic focus. These countries will have the opportunity to enjoy the extensive infrastructure that has been built in Qatar, including over a hundred new hotels, shopping malls, attractions, theme parks, and water parks. We offer a wide range of options for accommodations, from budget to deluxe, as well as a diverse selection of dining experiences. All of this complements the traditional side of Qatar, with its vibrant art and culture, fabulous world-class museums, UNESCO heritage sites, and desert experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in our traditional customs.
Now that we have a fantastic tourism product, catering to the preferences of tourists from various markets, we will prioritise our focus markets for volume, while still welcoming visitors from other markets. It's worth noting that we offer visa-free entry for 95 countries, including Bangladesh and India. There is no need for a visa application or any paperwork. The only requirement is to book through Discover Qatar, a local accommodation provider, to ensure a seamless experience during their stay.
As Qatar promotes sustainable tourism, what inclusiveness and responsible behaviour do you expect from visitors to support Qatar's sustainability practices?
Sustainability is at the core of Qatar's infrastructure development. For example, the new Msheireb downtown area has been built using the most sustainable practices. This includes waste management, solar panels, and desalination for water supply. These smart cities prioritise electric transportation, such as the metro and tram in Msheireb.
We understand the importance of everyone's contribution to sustainability and achieving a carbon-neutral footprint. In Qatar, we are committed to ensuring sustainability in all aspects. Despite being a small country, Qatar offers easy accessibility with the electric metro and tram systems. The hotels in these newly developed areas are also built sustainably, aligning with our overall sustainability efforts. By utilising these sustainable infrastructure and services, our visitors contribute to our sustainability goals while enjoying their stay in Qatar.
Who are your competitors, and how do you differentiate yourself from them in the tourism industry?
Each destination has its unique selling points. We focus on the Middle East region and being the first host of the World Cup in the Middle East sets us apart. We offer a different experience compared to other destinations like Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Our blend of modernity and tradition is a major selling point, with excellent resorts, restaurants, shopping malls, and infrastructure on the modern side, while staying true to our roots with traditional souqs, museums, art installations, and desert experiences.
Accessibility is another advantage, as everything is within a proximity; allowing travellers to enjoy various activities in a short timeframe. Our connectivity through Qatar Airways and other carriers to over a hundred destinations worldwide is exceptional. Qatar is known for its safety and offers something for everyone, whether it's a family, couple, or solo traveller seeking an active, relaxing, or romantic holiday. We focus on conveying our offerings through media and trade partnerships, including a comprehensive training programme for the travel trade. Instead of worrying about competition, we aim to showcase the numerous reasons why travellers should choose Qatar as their destination.
Considering the abundance of information available in the digital space, how do you effectively position your information sharing and broadcasting to provide a focused and well-defined image of Qatar as a destination?
In a crowded digital space where people often research and gather information, we aim to position Qatar as a well-defined destination by providing focused and concise information. Our goal is to share clear and targeted messaging about what Qatar offers, ensuring that potential visitors have a clear understanding of our unique identity and attractions.
We conduct thorough research to understand what resonates with our customers. Our past successful campaigns include having David Beckham as our ambassador for the stopover campaign and the "No Football, No Worries" campaign during the World Cup. Currently, our global campaign focuses on consistency and capturing the essence of Qatar, highlighting the experiences and attractions for families. We have an active presence on social media and utilise various channels such as TV, print, and digital marketing to promote our campaigns effectively.
Do you think travel agents and tour operators are the best influencers?
That’s a unique take! Yes, I believe travel agents and tour operators are highly influential in promoting tourism. The statistics show that approximately 75% of travel transactions are still conducted through the travel trade. While there is a portion of travellers who prefer to make their arrangements directly, there will always be a demand for experienced travel providers. Qatar Tourism is fully committed to supporting the travel trade and assisting them in converting customers into holiday bookings.
If there's a first-time traveller to Qatar, what is one experience or treasure that you would recommend they take back home as a souvenir?
I would recommend visiting Souq Waqif, a vibrant marketplace with its cobblestone streets, local arts, and cultural experiences. It's a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture, interact with locals, and indulge in traditional food and captivating sights and sounds.