MEET THE CULTURE
Almost 90% of the 2.6 million inhabitants of Qatar, a country in the Persian Gulf, live in Doha. The flourishing coastal capital is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Qatar is ruled by the Al Thani dynasty under the current emir Tamim bin Hamad, who, at the age of 34, is one of the youngest monarchs in the world. He is continuing the work of his famous father, Hamad bin Khalifa, who ruled from 1995-2013 and pulled Qatar from anonymity and elevated it to the country with the highest GDP per capita.
A few years ago Qatar also began to focus on the development of congress tourism. In this area it is not satisfied with being average, but rather is aiming to attract the best in the world to its shores. The country believes that congress tourism is important for the development of a healthy and sustainable society.
Qatar National Vision 2030
When rich deposits of oil and gas where discovered in Qatar in 1949, rapid economic and politic development began. As there is an awareness that natural sources are limited, a strategic development plan has already been prepared. By the year 2030 Qatar wishes to thoroughly reform the country and make it sustainable and technologically advanced. In doing so the country does not wish to lose its Arab traditions and culture, which remain an important part of all projects. Doha currently resembles a huge construction site, where new and magnificent buildings are growing at a phenomenal rate. In the future, the city wishes to become an international centre for tourism, finance and development. The ambitious agenda is based on four pillars: Economic, Human, Social and Environmental Development. Congress tourism is a kind of interdisciplinary link between all four pillars and is therefore an integral part of the strategy.
Doha – a multicultural capital
Qatar has an exceptionally diverse ethnic structure. Approximately 300,000 of its population are Qataris, and the remainder of the up to two million inhabitants are people who have come to this desert city to seek a better life. A huge number come from India, Nepal, the Phillipines and Egypt, whilst there are only very small numbers of Europeans. The majority of male muslims wear white garments (thobe), and women wear black robe-like dresses (abayha). The working week begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday. It is necessary to take this into consideration when planning any events in Qatar.
A regional cultural centre
Doha is considered to be one of the most lively and diverse cultural centres in the whole region. The capital city, Doha, has been investing heavily in building a network of cultural institutions in the past 15 years, in order to become that leader in this field in the Gulf. Within the last decade, thanks to sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the sister of Qatar’s ruling emir, Qatar Museums was founded, which has brought together numerous museum institutions.
One of the country’s key projects is the new National Museum of Qatar, which was designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and is due to be opened at the end of this year. It is located on the site of the Amiri Palace, where the predecessor of the museum once stood. Visitors to the musem will be able to learn about the creation of the original city, the modernisation of Qatar, and the country’s cultural achievements.
The city currently resembles a huge construction site, where some of the world’s best architects are realising their plans. Every year there are a number of spectacular new buildings, which impress lovers of architecture. In addition to the aforementioned National Museum, last year the Qatar National Library was opened, which was designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The Museum of Islamic Art is the work of the architect I. M. Pei, and one of the football stadiums for the 2022 Fifa World Cup was designed by Zaha Hadid. The majority of congress guests will be impressed by the exceptional architecture of the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), which was designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The facade, which is reminiscent of a Sidra tree – a tree that offers shade to Bedouins in the desert – is a stand-out feature.
One of the most well-known Qatar institutions has gained credibility mainly by reporting about the Arab Spring, which exceeded all ratings records. Al Jazeera began broadcasting from its studios in Qatar in the mid 1990s, and has since expanded to Turkish-speaking areas and the Balkans. It could be said that, in addition to oil and gas, Al Jazeera is one of Qatar’s most successful export items.
Qatar hosts numerous sports events
In the past decade Qatar has established itself as a top destination for sports events. In 2019 it will host the World Athletic Championships. Its greatest achievement to date was when it was awarded the right to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup, for which nine new football stadiums are being built. A year later, the world’s best swimmers will gather in Doha for the Swimming World Cup. According to Thani Al-Kuwari, general secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee, by 2022 the country will have 99% of the facilities required for the organisation of a summer Olympic games and it could run for candidacy as early as 2028.
Air transport accessibility as a cornerstone of congress tourism
In 2013 Qatar’s Hamad airport opened. It is an ultra modern, five-star airport that can handle up to 40 million passengers per year. Together with one of the world’s best airlines, Qatar Airways, it is the cornerstone of the development of congress tourism. Qatar Airways is one of the fastest growing airline companies in the world with the most modern fleet. It pays 30 million euros per year for its logo to be displayed on the shirts of Lionel Messi and his fellow players at Barcelona. Today, Doha is connected with 150 destinations, whilst Qatar Airways has developed its own QMICE programme, which is a one-stop shop for events organisers. The programme offers organisers numerous benefits and facilitates arrival in the country.
Why is Qatar a new, fresh and top-notch congress destination?
In the past decade this rich Arab country has invested huge sums of money in the construction of congress infrastructure and has rapidly established itself on the world congress map.
The framework of the congress facilities comprises 51 four- and five-star hotels, which together offer 14,996 hotel rooms. Of this, 34 are five-star hotels, and among them are all the big names that are of significance in the hotel world. Almost all the hotels also offer smaller congress centres, therefore when choosing, it is more about the style of hotel. It is, however, only right to mention the first among the congress hotels, the legendary Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, which was the pioneer of congress tourism in Doha and whose pyramid structure is an icon among hotel buildings. The convention centre offers 26 congress halls, the largest of which can accommodate up to 3,000 attendees. The paradise garden, which is ideal for holding receptions and carrying out incentive programmes, is of particular interest for events organisers.
The first large, new investment in the international breakthrough was construction of the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), which, from a technical perspective, is considered to be one of the most advanced convention centres. It covers a total area of 47,700 km2, which extends over five halls. The DECC has the largest hall in the city, which can accommodate up to 7,300 attendees and has 2,800 parking spaces. The 19-metre-high ceiling is a particularly striking feature, making it sufficient for even the most demanding of productions.
Qatar’s newest acquisition is the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC). The ultra modern centre can rightfully be classified among the best in the world, both for its technical equipment and excellent functional design. The core of the centre are the multifunctional hall for 4,000 attendees with its exceptional lighting, and the plenary hall for 2,300 attendees with its remarkable acoustics. In addition there are 52 breakout rooms, which are suitable for the organisation of practically all types of corporate events. A further 40,000km2 of exhibition area in nine halls is available. Following its opening, the centre immediately became the focus of congressional events.
In Qatar there is no shortage of exceptional venues. The majority of museums are also suitable venues for the organisation of events and offer special experiences. In combination with tradition and customs, interesting incentive programmes can be arranged, which can range from sports and active to culture and luxury.
Among the special venues, the following are particularly interesting:
- The Al Shaqab Equestrian Centre is is an enduring tribute to the Arabian horse and the tradition of equestrian excellence that has co-evolved with this breed in Qatar
- The Al Zubarah Fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising extensive archaeological works
- The Aspire Zone Sports was built to host the 2006 Doha Asian Games. The complex offers an ideal venue for large scale health and sports-oriented events
- The Doha Golf Club is a championship golf course with state-of-the-art conference and banquet facilities
- The Katara Cultural Village is a purpose-built beachfront development designed to bring culture and entertainment together in a single location
- The Museum of Islamic Art is an iconic building prominently located on the Corniche waterfront that provides a stunning variety of high end venues for all corporate events.
The facilities are complemented by an entire network of DMC, PCO and other support agencies that are able to prepare even the most demanding congress programmes.
All providers are connected with the Qatar Tourism Authority, which ensures that the path of the congress industry is aligned with Qatar’s 2030 national development strategy and follows international trends. Hidden beneath the surface of the development of congress tourism is an excellent idea about connecting it with culture, which is the driving force of development in Qatar. It has to be said that they have succeeded in creating exceptional synergy. This is what mainly distinguishes Doha from its more developed neighbours in the Gulf. Personally, I believe that this is the right formula for success and Kongres magazine will gladly continue to monitor the development of this Gulf congress destination, where events are spiced with unmatched Arabic hospitality.
DOHA INDIVIDUAL GRADES 2017
MTLG INDEX / 2019 EDITION
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotel rooms: 14,996
- The number of 4* and 5* category hotels: 51
- Banquet hall maximum capacity: 9,744
- The largest hall in the city (in m2): 29,035 m2
- Destination population: 1,351,000
- Maximum hall capacity in theatre style: 14,517
COMPARISON WITH THE REGION
Congress organisers in Qatar have uncovered a simple formula for long-term development. Investment in infrastructure + excellent air accessibility + authenticity and culture, are rapidly launching it among the world’s leading congress destinations.
There are few organisers who are not tempted to peek into the background of stories about this mysterious Arab country – many of which are reminiscent of the modern fairytale about One Thousand and One Nights. Thanks to its Middle Eastern charm, friendly people, magnificent congress hotels, sun, sea and exceptional congress infrastructure, Qatar is becoming an increasingly popular congress destination – one that is highly recommended.
HAREES – a dish similar in consistency to porridge made of boiled or ground wheat, meat and butter. It is a well-known dish in the GCC and very popular during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Eid and other festive occasions. Cinnamon and cardamom are most often used as a garnish.
XL – MEETING DESTINATION
Destinations that can host over 2,000 congress attendees.