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Qatar's tourism numbers are growing, but so is the country's reliance on events and conferences.

The small Gulf nation of Qatar is relying heavily on events to keep its tourism sector going. During the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the country scrambled to open thousands of hotel rooms, which it now struggles to fill without similar mega-events.

The latest official count shows Qatar’s hotels have an occupancy rate of 72% as of April. That sounds strong – it’s similar to Dubai, in fact. But occupancy surged during the Asia World Cup at the start of the year, and then dropped afterward.

Here are the numbers:

The AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 took place in Qatar from January 12 to February 10 this year, using the stadiums built for the FIFA World Cup. Around 700,000 people visited Qatar in January, and 596,000 in February. Visitation sank in March and April, to 329,000 and 382,000.

Occupancy and room rates also sank.

  • January: 84% occupancy at $136 per night.
  • February: 85% occupancy at $145 per night.
  • March: 56% occupancy at $109 per night.
  • April: 63% occupancy at $127 per night.

5-star hotels, which Qatar built the most of for the World Cup, are the ones with the lowest occupancies. For March 2024, occupancy levels in 5-star hotels were 49% across more than 19,000 rooms. 5-star hotels in April were 58% full compared to 61% in 4-star hotels, 76% in 3-star hotels and 86% in 1- and 2-star hotels.

Without large-scale events, particularly sporting ones, Qatar’s tourism sector tends to shrink. The issue is greater when considering the country built an extra 10,000 hotel rooms between the start of 2022 and now, increasing the country’s supply by a third. Qatar now has just shy of 40,000 hotel rooms.

Looking at 2023 as a whole, hotels were usually half empty, with an average occupancy rate of 58% at a cost of $112 a night.

Qatar’s Events and Trade Shows

Stacking the events calendar extends to trade shows as well. The International Horticultural Expo 2023 Doha, for example, had 4.5 million visits (including repeats) during its 179-day run from October 2023 to March 2024.

Alongside hosting the Middle East’s inaugural FIFA World Cup, Qatar holds a controlling interest in Paris Saint-Germain, a soccer club in France. Furthermore, it secures a consistent place on the Formula 1 racing schedule through a decade-long agreement initiated in 2023. Doha is slated to host the FIFA Arab Cup next year and the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2027.

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, a department created to deliver the World Cup, is responsible for finding more big events. A current goal is to host the summer Olympic games in Doha in 2036.

Businesses Prompted to Promote Events

Currently, officials are adjusting policies to facilitate businesses in leveraging events and exhibitions more effectively.

This week, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Qatar Tourism introduced an initiative aimed at streamlining licensing processes for businesses and hotels. It looks to simplify ‘Qualitative Licensing Services,’ easing the hurdles encountered during the application for promotional and price reduction licenses, as well as the procedures for festival, event, and exhibition licensing.

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Tags: middle east report, qatar, qatar tourism, Tourism news, travel news

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