QATAR has taken a solid step forward to become a quality leisure destination …

Qatar has taken a solid step forward in its quest to become a quality leisure destination by signing an agreement with the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) to chart the framework needed to develop facilities that meet  international standards.

The 17-month agreement will see UNWTO update and create benchmarked processes within QTA. Based on international benchmark standards, the UNWTO and QTA shall develop “a consistent and locally-relevant monitoring and quality control system across the wide range of tourism activities described under Law 6 of 2012”,  as the Tourism Law.

Qatar is  expanding the level, diversity and quality of its tourism offerings. While progressing to ensure a successful World Cup in 2022, the UNWTO partnership shall further ensure that Qatar has a well-planned,  quality and reliable tourism industry meeting the expectations of the international travel trade.

While the country tourism sector thrives, QTA’s agreement with UNWTO  seeks to align the travel boom with Qatar’s 2030 Vision, ensuring that tourism is also sustainable.

Commenting on the initiative, Qatar Tourism Authority chairman Issa bin Mohamed al-Mohannadi said: “QTA has been hard at work creating an ambitious strategy to solidify Qatar’s position as a leading tourist destination and enhancing the quality and standards of international tourism for the nation. However, we are conscious of the importance of environmental sustainability for tourism development and as the regulator of industry standards and codes, we are taking the lead in ensuring sustainable growth and development of Qatar’s fast-growing tourism sector.”

UNWTO secretary-general Taleb Rifai welcomed the agreement as “an important step forward in developing Qatar’s tourism policies, legislative framework and institutional capacities”. He pointed out that the agreement reflected  the strategic priority afforded by the  Qatar government to tourism as a driver of socio-economic development.

QTA’s overall tourism development strategy is aimed at lowering Qatar’s carbon footprint, energy and water consumption, and so also at protecting Qatar’s natural habitats, its wildlife and its marine reserves. “We see these natural assets as forming important future tourist attractions in a well regulated and professional industry,” al-Mohannadi said.

The phased approach includes creating a policy framework for the institution of regulations, standards, and codes of conduct for all activities and businesses related to tourism products and services; creating a policy framework, sustainability indicator instruments, and tourism environmental impact assessments which guide development planning and implementation of environmental sustainability practices in Qatar; and implementing guidelines for the creation of foreign and direct financial investment codes and policies for tourism in Qatar.

The initial phase will cover five major areas of tourist activities: desert safaris and camps; tour guides; tourism investment, event management companies; retail, wholesale, DMC (destination management) and both inbound and outbound travel agencies and theme/ amusement parks.

Phase two will cover destination marketing themes, hotel energy systems and related sustainability areas.

Qatar’s tourism sector grew 13% in the first quarter of 2013  compared to 2012, fuelled by a hotel boom. The hospitality sector plays a crucial role in the growth of tourism and Qatar’s hotel sector is growing at an incredible rate – 110 hotels were under construction last year, which when finished will offer 19,931 rooms to visitors.

Last year, hotels in Qatar had a total capacity of 13,407 rooms. “It is not only the number of rooms that is important, but also the quality, eco-sustainability and the diversity of choices across all grades and price levels,” al-Mohannadi said.

As per industry reports, hospitality and leisure is the third largest area of consumer consumption of carbon after homes and transport closely tracked by retail.

“Hospitality has a significant foot print, which makes sustainability a key priority for QTA. Following our meeting with the UNWTO secretary general in March, we engaged the first UNWTO consultant last week to operate as per our agreement and the timetable developed. Within a month, we will be starting a series of development programmes specifically aimed at hotel energy solutions. Over the next six months QTA, with the UNWTO, shall introduce a wide range of environmental issues, topics and proposals to the industry,” al-Mohannadi said.

Reported by: Caye Global News, Gulf Times

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