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Dr Taleb Rifai (left), Secretary-General of UN World Tourism Organisation, and Issa Al Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, during a press conference on Monday. (Shaival Dalal)
BY RAYNALD C RIVERA
DOHA: Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) is likely to unveil its new long-term tourism strategy within the first half of this year, QTA Chairman Issa Al Mohannadi said on Monday.
“Our target was the middle of 2013, but we are moving faster than what we have expected so we may be announcing it before the middle of the year,” said Al Mohannadi during a press conference at the QTA headquarters
He said the strategy would see three phases of implementation; the first phase will extend until 2016, the next will be before World Cup 2022 and the final stage will be before 2030.
Apart from collaborating with various organisations in the country to in designing the strategy which include the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Qatar Museums Authority, Qatar Airways and Katara, QTA has also sought advice from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), whose team led by UNWTO Secretary General Dr Taleb Rifai has just concluded a two-day session with the QTA.
During the meeting, UNWTO held an in-depth discussion of four main elements of the strategy namely meeting initiatives and conferences and exhibitions (MICE), laws and regulations, human resource development and sustainability, said Dr Rifai.
Specifically, Refai said, the discussion centred on how to make a more encompassing tourism industry capitalising on the strengths of Qatar, expanding from MICE to other spheres such as recreation, leisure, education and health.
How to engage the young men and women of Qatar in the tourism sector like encouraging start-ups and small and medium enterprises in the service sector which is promising was also among the focal points in the two-day workshop.
“We also talked about the most important challenge that all mankind is facing, which is the issue of sustainability and particularly environmental preservation and protection of the most vulnerable sites, coastal lines, inland sites and archaeological and historical sites with particular significance,” said Rifai.
With UNWTO’s depth of experience in various aspects of tourism globally, it was crucial for the QTA to seek advice making sure the strategy is properly aligned with them and adopt the best practices, said Al Mohannadi.
“We are confident after sharing this high level strategy with the UNWTO that we are on the right path. We believe that the implementation of this tourism strategy will develop the whole sector and hopefully the results would reflect on Qatar as the most visited destination in the region,” said the QTA chairman.
He said the new strategy would also focus on various aspects of sustainability including on economy, human capital development and environment.
Involving the private sector in taking initiatives especially on developing leisure tourism is also part of the plan, said Al Mohannadi, adding: “The government should not own or be the developer itself unless we have to, for certain projects which are challenging to the private sector.”
He said designing the strategy doesn’t mean the government would be the developer.
“We set the road map; the direction we are taking, what we are trying to achieve, the market we are targeting, how we should develop all these and when all these will take place.”
On QTA’s role in promoting business tourism, particularly in organising exhibitions, he said: “It is best to for the government to start a certain industry because it has the support and access to nurture it, then when it has already been developed it could be handed over to the private sector to take it to the next level.”