|Middle East and North Africa Business
Report, Amman, JordanMcClatchy-Tribune Business News
Dec. 6, 2006 - Qatar, the richest Arab nation per capita, is set to enjoy a flourishing leisure tourism industry according to the CEO of Abu Dhabi Investment House (ADIH), developer of US$3 billion Entertainment City.
With five per cent of the world's proven natural gas reserves, Qatar's tourism industry is understandably concentrated upon the business tourism sector, with the majority of visitors arriving for exhibitions and meetings rather than leisure tourism.
Only in the past decade has Qatar made moves to corner more of the region's leisure tourism market, but the recent announcement of Entertainment City, combined with the Asian Games being held in Qatar, is showcasing the country to millions of prospective leisure visitors.
One million square-metre Entertainment City, set to complete in 2009 and attract 25,000 visitors a day, will be a mix of hospitality, leisure and recreational facilities, with complementary commercial and residential components. The destination will offer spectacular theme parks, themed hotels, speciality shopping, fine dining restaurants, cinemas, a theatre and alternative entertainment components.
Rashad Janahi, CEO of ADIH explained during the Cityscape property exhibition in Dubai, that the Asian Games would provide a huge boost to the Gulf state. He said: "This is an exciting time for Qatar, and our development of $3 billion Entertainment City will help the country capitalise on the wonderful international showcasing of the country at the Asian Games by keeping the momentum going. "In less than two years, visitors to Qatar will be able to experience a level of quality entertainment that the country has never been able to offer in such a scale.
"Highlighting the strong regional culture it will be an un-gated facility, which aims to encourage visitors and families from the local community to explore at their leisure."
Gas-rich Qatar, which had US$2.8 billion dollars invested in infrastructure for the 15-day Asian Games, is home to 700,000 people, mostly expatriate foreign workers, but the country's rulers believe the Games will provide a lasting legacy.
Qatar has growing inbound tourism ambitions, with Doha International Airport undergoing huge expansion to cope with the anticipated increases in passenger traffic. When completed in 2015, the new airport will be able to handle around 50 million passengers a year. Airport expansion is expected to cater for up to 12 million passengers each year, in line with the runaway growth of Qatar Airways. The country's flag carrier, Qatar Airways, which is central to the international promotion of Qatar is now one of the world's fastest-growing international airlines and plans to serve more than 60 destinations by 2005 and have a fleet of 52 Airbus aircraft by 2008.
The Qatari government has a pro-business stance on foreign investment and is encouraging the growth of the country's private sector, stimulating progress with an active privatisation programme.
Doha is proportionately the fastest growing hotel market in the region, albeit from a relatively small base. However, with over 40 confirmed hotel projects, and many more un-confirmed, Doha will more than triple its supply of hotel rooms in two years, as well as increasing its quality serviced apartments stock by eight times.
Tourism demand, especially for Doha's new beach hotels, is frustrated at the moment, due in particular to the relatively high prices of the hotel rooms, reflecting Doha's current under-capacity and concentration on high-yielding corporate guests.
Janahi said: "Entertainment City will add momentum to Qatar's tourism upsurge and will significantly increase the country's attraction to visitors, in addition to significantly increasing the hotel room stock.
"The hotels within Entertainment City will all be uniquely themed and will add to the overall experience of leisure visitors to the development.
"Only a year ago Qatar offered 2,600 bedrooms, but by the end of 2007 there will be 11,000. Entertainment City is set to increase this to by a further third to almost 15,000 rooms in 2009."
Entertainment City will run alongside a one kilometre-long waterfront, in the Lusail area, a 35 square kilometre northern expansion of the capital, Doha. Entertainment City is set to be the anchor development for the entire Lusail project.
Nearby, is Doha Golf Course and Qatar Energy City, which is already attracting professional and leisure traffic.
Mr Janahi added: "Entertainment City is designed to attract broad demographic profiles, from children, to young adults, to business incentive groups. "It (Entertainment City) will be a fusion of traditional Arabic hospitality and contemporary leisure lifestyles. Sub-themes will revive legends surrounding the area's famous traders and seafarers, ancient Arabic castles, forts, cities and forgotten kingdoms."
Various attractions within the Entertainment City 'communities' will include a family entertainment centre; water theme park; family natural attractions; Doha's largest cinema complex; a theatre and a bowling alley, among others.
Copyright (c) 2006, Middle East and North Africa Business Report, Amman, Jordan
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