Tourism: We must open our hearts, minds

 25 Feb 2014 - 1:26


Khalid Al Sayed

Speaking at the ‘Tourism in Tomorrow’s World’ conference on Sunday, QTA Chairman Issa Al Mohannadi said that $45bn would be spent to develop tourism in Qatar as part of the National Tourism Strategy 2030. Tourism’s contribution to the country’s GDP is around 0.8 percent now and is projected to rise to more than three percent by 2030, and the number of visitors is expected to jump from 1.2 million in 2012 to 7 million by 2030. 
We don’t have the details of how this $45bn will be spent. There is no doubt this amount can build a lot of infrastructure but I do not think what we need is projects. 
The most important thing Qatar needs to promote tourism is flexibility in rules and regulations. Since these rules are not made by the tourism authority, there is a need for close coordination between various departments and ministries. How will tourism grow if foreigners can’t get visas to visit the country, if small operators cannot open businesses in this sector due to the huge capital required and if the Ministry of Economy and Commerce and Municipality have strict rules? 
Is it possible to organise exhibitions here without overcoming lots of restrictions and regulations? 
These are the real issues QTA needs to address, though it’s really nice to listen to such speeches and read about huge amounts being spent. 
We also have huge conferences and other events on a regular basis where the government and public sector companies are spending millions of dollars to bring delegations and for their five-star accommodation. Does this generate revenue? 
So let’s think of improving the system before spending millions of dollars. 
We must all open our hearts and minds and listen to others instead of just focusing on buildings and infrastructure. Tourism is more about human being than numbers and buildings. The Peninsula