Qatar National Hotels Company (QNH) will mark another major milestone at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (30th April – 3rd May) as the Doha headquartered hospitality giant reveals details of its strategic expansion programme to the regional and international tourism industry.

QNH will share its exciting plans for future development at both domestic and international level, within its expansive remit as asset owner, developer and manager of a growing hospitality portfolio on three continents.

“We have been at the forefront of Qatar’s development since its creation, and is responsible for growing the country’s hospitality product. In addition to introducing the world’s best known luxury hotel brands to this market, we are also targeting business travellers through our own Merweb group of hotels,” said His Excellency Sheikh Nawaf bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, Chairman, Qatar National Hotels Company.

“QNH plays a vital role in positioning Qatar as a global hospitality player, as part of the government’s far-reaching National Vision 2030 economic development and diversification programme,” he added.

According to Euromonitor International, inbound visitor numbers for the Gulf state are expected to reach 1.6 million by 2014, up from just under one million in 2009.

Hotel occupancy rates also rose in the third quarter of 2011, despite a surge of new openings last year, reflecting increasing demand and interest in tourism in the Gulf state as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee recently confirmed that the World Cup will contribute significantly to the country’s tourism coffers, with annual tourist arrivals into Qatar forecast to increase to 3.7 million by 2022.

According to the Qatar Tourism Authority, more than 6,000 hotel rooms, with 25 hotels and 10 hotel apartments, opened up in the market in 2011, with average room occupancy rates continuing their upward trend for the period July to September 2011; reaching 48%, representing a 4% increase on 2010.

In addition to the construction of 12 new football stadiums, Qatar is building 77 new hotels and 42 hotel apartments ahead of the 2022 tournament. Over US$100 billion worth of infrastructure is also due to be completed, including the new US$11 billion Doha International Airport, the US$6 billion Doha port project and a US$25 billion metro and railway system.

The strength of Qatar’s banking sector underscores the Gulf state’s ability to finance major planned projects given its financial sector performance and its projected GDP growth of 6% in 2012 and its liquid banking sector.

At the end of 2011, total assets of the country’s commercial banks grew by 22.3% to $190.6 billion in 2011 from 2010 while customer deposits increased by more than 18.5% to $100 billion. Meanwhile credit facilities to customers rose by 28.2% to $103.5 billion.

Qatar’s financial performance was all the more impressive given fears of contagion from the Euro zone debt crisis and slow growth in the United States and other developed markets.

QNH has already added to its portfolio in 2012 with its acquisition of two iconic Raffles properties in Singapore and Paris – the iconic Raffles Hotel Singapore and the famous Le Royal Monceau – Raffles, Paris in the heart of the French capital.

An investment agreement was also signed between QNH and the Moroccan government in late 2011 for redevelopment of Tangier’s historic Tazi Palace. Under the agreement, QNH is investing US$55 million to convert the former palace into a five-star luxury hotel.

“Our focus is to use our investment wealth to continue on the path of success that we have achieved in recent years through our thriving portfolio of Qatar-based hotels, and growing portfolio of international properties, and to invest today for future generations,” remarked Sheikh Nawaf.