Top Qatar Tourism Official on the World Cup as a Springboard for Future

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As it prepares to host the first-ever FIFA World Cup in the Middle East, Qatar expects the event to offer unique marketing potential to put the destination firmly on the tourism map. But for a country whose pre-Covid arrivals stood at 2.1 million in 2019, a target of 1.5 million tourists for the two months of the tournament seems too ambitious.

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For an event that only takes place once every four years, the 2022 International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) World Cup is surely helping Qatar – its host nation this year – create the right kind of buzz. for its tourism sector.

As the countdown begins for the biggest tourism event – the Middle East’s first-ever FIFA – stakeholders are talking about wanting to leave visitors more than satisfied with their “Qatar travel experience”.

Neighboring countries are also trying to make the most of the event. On Wednesday, Iran announced it would waive visa fees for World Cup spectators, hoping to woo soccer fans who flock to Qatar to visit the nearby destination.

Chosen by FIFA over rival bids from Australia, Japan, South Korea and the United States, Qatar is developing infrastructure to attract tourists in droves during the World Cup.

In conversation with Skift, Berthold Trenkel, COO of Qatar Tourism, talks about the preparations underway in Qatar for the World Cup this year.

Comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Skift: Qatar plans to attract 1.5 million fans during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This number represents more than two-thirds of the country’s tourism figures for 2019 (2.1 million). Are you sure to attract so many tourists in two months?

Berthold Trenkel: Qatar Tourism is extremely confident that we will reach over one million fans in November and December of this year. Events like the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 generate global excitement and, furthermore, in today’s environment, there is the added push or dynamism that comes from the millennial segment; they want to be part of the action and not the ones who sit and watch. This segment of travelers wants to be where the action is and due to their incredible social media presence, they tend to amplify the efforts of brands, especially tourism brands. Ticket sales for games are oversubscribed by a huge multiple. Especially football heavyweights in Latin America – Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. But we’re also seeing huge interest from markets like the US and India. Moreover, the appeal of the World Cup goes beyond football because of all the household names associated with it, as visitors or performers at the opening and closing ceremonies. Footballers are celebrities in their own right. Over one million visitors is a very reasonable number given that previous editions have attracted over 5 million tourists to the host countries. Of course, we’re not just relying on FIFA’s inherent ability to attract fans. Qatar has undertaken tremendous infrastructure efforts to help us achieve our related goals.

Skift: Regarding infrastructure efforts, how are you working to build infrastructure and create tourism assets around the event?

Trinkel: We are looking to use all accommodation options available and are developing more hotels as we speak. Innovative choices for fans will include camping in the desert and staying aboard a temporarily docked cruise ship with views of the Doha cityscape. Qatar will have over 36,000 keys for the more than one million fans expected during the 28-day tournament. New theme parks have also recently opened – Quest Theme Park, home to the world’s tallest indoor shoot and drop tower and the world’s tallest indoor roller coaster.

We strongly believe that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will serve as a catalyst to advance the state’s long-term tourism goals. This is indeed an opportunity for us to showcase our world renowned hospitality. A host of new hotels are on the anvil and will be ready to welcome fans in November this year.

Skift: Currently there are over 180 hotels/hotel apartments/service apartments, where do you see this number increasing to accommodate visitors attending the World Cup? Can you list some upcoming hospitality projects this year?

Trinkel: We have a very long development pipeline in preparation for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Some of the exciting projects set to open this year, in and around Doha, which will be the epicenter of the games, include Qetaifan Island North, Katara Towers, Place Vendôme, Rosewood, Aljaber Twin Towers, Pullman Doha, Dream Doha, The St Regis Marsa Arabiua Island, ME Doha and West Walk. Fans can expect to see an event like no other, with the incredible atmosphere of centrally located stadiums, stunning hotels and authentic culture. The brand new public transport system – the metro and feeder buses, where available, will be an important key to boosting connectivity.

Skift: How does Qatar Tourism intend to continue tourism development even after the FIFA World Cup is over?

Trinkel: Qatar has always been a preferred destination among international travelers. It is our belief, and apparently the belief of all hotel investors creating new properties in Qatar as well, that travelers will get a taste of Qatar during the tournament and can’t get enough of it. It’s a great opportunity for them to see what the destination has to offer outside of football matches, and we expect many fans to return to Qatar in the years to come. Most importantly, the World Cup will be a unique marketing springboard to put Qatar firmly on the tourism map and drive awareness and consideration for the destination. In terms of tourism infrastructure development, the scope of Qatar’s plans extends far beyond the World Cup. We want to position Qatar as the destination for sporting events and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, alongside our strong positioning as a destination for family vacations, adventurous vacations, romantic getaways and stopovers . We firmly believe that the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will serve as a catalyst to advance Qatar’s long-term tourism goals.

Skift: Qatar has committed to hosting a carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup, what does that entail?

Trinkel: Our promise to host a carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup involves adopting sustainable practices for stadiums, from design to construction and then to the use of energy and water. Stadiums are all about sustainability. Stadium 974, for example, is built from reused shipping containers and will be completely dismantled after the tournament is over.

Sustainable tourism is high on Qatar’s national agenda and is at the heart of Qatar’s National Vision 2030. We believe that tourism must strike a balance between visitation and infrastructure development on the one hand and the protection of the environment on the other hand. The State of Qatar is in the process of developing and strengthening environmental institutions that will strive to raise public awareness of environmental protection issues.