(Reuters) - Qatar will invest $20 billion to $25 billion in tourism infrastructure development over the next 11 years as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup, the head of its state-run tourism authority said on Monday.
Qatar’s copious natural gas reserves have turned it into an economic powerhouse and the world’s richest country per-capita, and driven its bold ambitions to lure visitors.
“This is mostly going to be in hotels, but also in parks and entertainment venues,” the chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority Ahmed Abdullah Al-Nuaimi told Reuters in an interview.
The country, which currently has 10,000 hotel rooms, will add an additional 5,500 this year with plans to reach 30,000 by 2013. 5,000 new rooms will come on stream each year through 2022, he said.
“Big names are coming into the market, including four-star brands and furnished apartments. Five hotels at the Pearl will start coming in the next three years: Four Seasons, Nikki Beach Hotel, one boutique hotel. Every brand in the world will be in Doha.”
Other hotel projects include the $2 billion City Centre project, initially slated for launch in 2006, which will start opening this year and will house six hotels, including Shangri La and Rotana.
A cruise ship terminal will be built at Doha’s new $5.5 billion deepwater seaport with capacity for two to three cruise ships that could be used to house visiting fans, Nuaimi said.
“We’ve gotten the go-ahead for it. And we can add more if we need it, since the whole port has the facilities.”
The government has allocated 40 percent of its budget between now and 2016 to infrastructure projects, including $11 billion on a new international airport and a $5.5 billion on a deepwater seaport.
Nuaimi said the country would be able to absorb any extra hotel capacity that may remain from the 2022 tournament.
“(Oversupply) is a big concern for everybody. But don’t forget that by then, we will have the full capacity of the airport, which will serve 50 million. By then we will have created a hub for the cruise business coming to Doha,” Al-Nuaimi said.
“If we just attract 5 percent of the airport capacity, that’s about 2.5 million a year. That’s going to be great business.”
The biggest worry facing the country right now is the speed of development of the hotels and infrastructure, Nuaimi said.
“We’re working with investors right now, speeding up development. We don’t want to wait until the last minute. That was the main lesson (from the 2006 Asian games)- everyone started at the last minute. Some of them finished after the Asian Games. I think we can avoid that this time.”
Nuaimi said the country is still hoping to capture the high-end tourist market, even with 2022 looming on the horizon.
“We don’t want people to come for a $50 room to lie on the beach all day and walk around with a backpack and shorts. These are not the type of people we’re targeting.”
“For the last five or six years we’ve invested in high-end hotels and facilities, high-end convention centres and museums. But we’re not looking for it to be a revenue-generating industry,” he said.
“We are different from the neighbouring countries. They focus on tourism as a source of income. If (the tourism market) crashes, it makes no difference for us.”
Reporting by Regan Doherty
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