As part of its new tourism strategy, Qatar has begun training residents as tour guides to work in key locations that will include Hamad International Airport, the country’s border with Saudi Arabia and the new port.
A total of 15 Qatari and Qatar-born students have just graduated from the 16-week-long program, which has been designed and run by Stenden University Qatar (SUQ) for the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA). SUQ specializes in tourism and hospitality management.
The guides, who are required to be bilingual, study subjects including the history of Qatar, knowledge of local tourist attractions, general tourism information, English language proficiency and other tour-guide essentials. Trainees are required to be Qatari, or in the case of expats, be born here or lived here for a long time.
The graduates were also drilled in advanced interpersonal relations to be able to engage properly with the increasing number of tourists now coming to Qatar.
Congratulating the guides at their graduation ceremony earlier this week, QTA’s Chairman Issa Al Mohannadi said in a statement:
“Tour guides are a key touch point on the frontline of tourists’ experience of Qatar. With Qatar’s growing tourism industry, it is crucial that we show tourists the beautiful reality of this country.”
No timeline has been set for when the guides will begin working at HIA and other points of entry into the country. But a spokesman for QTA told Doha News that a desk would likely be set up at the airport “soon.”
He added that a second group of trainee guides is expected to be accepted into the program after Ramadan.
HIA is Qatar’s busiest location in terms of dealing with international visitors. Some six million people traveled through the now-closed Doha International Airport in the first quarter of this year, and this number is set to increase with the new airport, which opened in April.
Meanwhile, under-construction Qatar’s new port, whose first phase is due for completion in 2016, is expected to serve as another hub for international visitors. The existing port is also slated to be repurposed into a cruise terminal.
When completed, the new port will be one of the main routes for the raw material imports that make construction of Qatar’s numerous infrastructure mega-projects possible.
The inauguration of the new guides comes as Qatar re-positions itself as a key regional tourism destination, particularly for visitors from other Gulf countries.
Its festivals held over Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha are particularly popular, while venues such as Katara and Souq Waqif regularly attract international guests.
In February, QTA launched its new national tourism strategy, which aims to attract some seven million visitors to Qatar by 2030 – a significant increase from 2012 figures, when there were 1.2 million travelers.
At the same time, QTA has also pledged to increase the number of people working in the tourism/hospitality industry exponentially, forecasting that figure to reach 127,000 in the coming 16 years.
In contrast, there were just 25,000 people working in this sector two years ago.