Qatar welcomed 1.4 million visitors in the first six months of 2016, including 665,355 Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals, according to Qatar Tourism Authority’s (QTA) Tourism Performance Summary for the First Half (H1) of 2016.
Saudi Arabia remains the largest source market and is also responsible for the bulk of the growth recorded in the number of GCC visitor arrivals, bringing to Qatar 39,650 additional Saudi visitors, representing 10% of the growth. Some additional substantial growth was evident also from the U.A.E. (13%), while arrivals from Bahrain also increased marginally (1%).
According to the report, the overall number of visitors is 6% lower than recorded in the first half of 2015. The timing of Ramadan, which this year began early in June compared to mid-June last year, has had a clear impact on arrivals for the second quarter, however August performance is expected to be supported by the Qatar Summer Festival which will run for the duration of the month. The Festival has been designed to attract visits at a traditionally off-peak period in Qatar’s hospitality and retail sectors, with hotel and shopping promotions, cultural performances and sports events that will drive footfall to establishments and venues.
Hassan Al-Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer, commented “Visitor arrival figures should see a further increase in Q4 as the 2016/17 cruise season begins in October. Thirty-two ships have already registered to dock in Doha’s ports, and are expected to carry over 50,000 visitors on board, a ten-fold increase from last year. This growth will continue as QTA and its partners set in motion plans to redevelop Doha Port, creating an attractive stop for cruise ships in the Gulf.”
Meanwhile, hotel occupancy and average room rates were lower compared to the same period in 2015. Occupancy rates in the tourist accommodation sector have seen a 15% fall from the first half of 2015, with an average of 64% occupancy recorded across all hotels and hotel apartments in the first half of 2016. The drop was generated in part by a 10% net increase in the number of available rooms, as 4 new properties have opened their doors since the end of June 2015.
Average room rates (ARR) across all hotels and apartments was 500 QAR, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) was 319 QAR. Similar to usual trends, the highest ARR and RevPAR levels continues to be achieved by the 5-Star and Deluxe Hotel Apartment classes.
Al Ibrahim added: “The overall declines in visitor arrivals and occupancy are consistent with trends seen across the region. As economic conditions improve and the number of travelers rises again, we are determined to be ready with tourism products that can retain leisure visitors, and increase the average length of stay of business visitors. We are actively engaged on many fronts in line with the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 to develop a sustainable tourism sector, including efforts to encourage investment in tourism, boosting cruise tourism, and expanding international promotional activity.”