Qatar is a world class destination for congresses and events. In conversation with Ahmed AlObaidli, Director of Exhibitions, Qatar Tourism Autority, we found out more about news and strategic plans in the destination.

Ahmed AlObaidli, Director of Exhibitions, Qatar Tourism Authority

1. International congresses can leave a strong legacy in their host destinations – what key industries in Qatar will benefit most from knowledge transfer through an intl. congress?

Qatar is a destination for delegates and conference-goers who are looking not only for a place to meet, but also a place where they can continue to learn, share knowledge and experience something new, outside of the walls of a conference hall.

In addition to being home to Qatar Foundation’s Education City, which houses several international higher education institutes, Qatar is a big spender on research: 2.7% of the national GDP is dedicated to scientific research, specifically biomedical, computing and environmental research.

As such, the business events industry in Qatar is aligned with sectors that the country’s leadership has identified as national priorities. Qatar National Vision 2030 prioritises healthcare, education, science & technology, sports, construction and urban planning, and naturally, oil and gas, so Qatar tends to host a high number of events in these fields. Conferences and conventions taking place in Qatar also reflect the level of overall activity in these sectors.

2. 2018 updates: Qatar is about to launch the new Board of the National Tourism Council – how will this affect the destination’s future strategy to win intl. congresses?

Qatar Tourism Authority’s transition to a National Tourism Council (NTC) comes as part of the Next Chapter of the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy which was launched in September 2017 and provides a tourism blueprint for the sector’s development over the next five years (2018-2023).

Once established, the Board of the National Tourism Council (NTC) will be chaired by His Excellency Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of Interior. This new governance structure will enhance coordination and decision making among relevant sectors, and ensure the various industries that feed into the tourism experience are aligned. The Board will also include representation from the private sector, ensuring the voice of this sector – which is critical to tourism development – is heard and their needs met.

3. Increased accessibility, visa-free entry, high safety – how do congresses benefit from Qatar’s USPs?

Qatar recognizes that accessibility and a seamless travel experience to a destination are high among the list of priorities for event planners seeking a destination. Thanks to the visa waiver offered to more than 80 nationalities, Qatar is now the most open country in the region, easily accessible to two-thirds of the world’s population.

Our national 5-star airline, Qatar Airways, which connects Qatar to more than 150 destinations around the globe, makes it exceptionally easy to plan your delegates’ trip to Qatar, wherever they are.

In addition to being one of the safest countries in the world, Qatar offers visitors tourist experiences rooted in authenticity through its museums, traditional markets, desert safaris and breathtaking inland sea. Our destination also boasts growing event management services, exhibition capacity of 70,000 square metres and an expanded transport network, providing the ideal venue for any congress.

4. How can QTA facilitate access and exchange between local experts and universities and international congress organisers to win future congresses?

QTA regularly hosts familiarisation trips in which it invites industry players from across the world to experience the destination’s offerings first hand and have an opportunity to meet with local hosts.

To increase influence and impact, QTA also encourages and empowers local experts with the information and tools they need to have these conversations independently. Our network of Medyaf ambassadors are fully briefed on the processes involved in bringing an event to Qatar.

5. What is your view on new emerging markets as a source for meetings and events to Qatar? On what new markets do you focus in 2018?

Qatar’s Business Events have witnessed an average annual growth rate of 36% over the past five years. To build on that, we are primarily focused on attracting international conferences and exhibitions that are in line with the National Vision 2030 and can support the country’s growth sectors such as healthcare, education, sports, urban planning, science & technology. As recent developments in Qatar have shed a strong spotlight on the importance of sustainability, food systems and entrepreneurship, we can also expect to have more interest in hosting large-scale events catering to those fields too.

While we have been mostly focused on Europe and the US, new markets we are keen on in 2018 include China and India. And, looking ahead to 2019, we are looking to further develop incentive and corporate meetings offerings.

6. What direct incentives can you offer to congress organisers, when planning an international event in Qatar?

QTA treats each business event uniquely on a case-by-case basis to customise its level and type of support based on requirements, potential economic impact on tourism and potential legacy impacts. The type of support that can be offered includes:

• Subvention, both financial & in-kind
• Connecting event organisers with government and private entities
• Connecting event organisers with local event stakeholders and suppliers including Qatar Airways’ QMICE programme, DMCs, hotels, venues, local PCOs etc.
• Visa facilitation support, if required
• Hosting site inspections