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Qatar hotels struggling to compete amid falling occupancy

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Expect better customer service, new food choices and some cheaper hotels rooms in the coming year as Qatar’s hospitality sector brainstorms ways to boost business amid rising competition.

More than a third of all hotel rooms in Qatar are predicted to sit empty by the end of December, according to US-based Colliers International.

According to one sales and marketing director of a four-star hotel, this is in part due to an “excess of new hotels opening in Qatar every month.”

Speaking to Doha News anonymously, he said, “Hotels have to cut costs to absorb the lack of revenue,” adding that one measure has been switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs to save money.

Four Seasons Doha
Four Seasons Doha

While Colliers forecast that discounts will become a popular way to woo guests, not everyone agrees.

Speaking to Hotelier Middle East last week, the general manager of Four Seasons Doha warned against adjusting room rates. Todd Cilano said:

“I’m not a believer that lowering prices is going to generate more interest. As a matter of fact, it’s an even better time to ensure that you’re investing in your people, in your guest experience, that they are getting the same, if not better, attention and service than they were in a buoyant business cycle.”

Renovations

Instead, Four Seasons is planning a renovation, adding a second ballroom this year.

Next year, it will begin overhauling its rooms so that in 2018 it will “basically be a brand new hotel again,” Cilano added.

The W Doha has also been undergoing a makeover, renovating its lounges and restaurants.

It has introduced curry night events at Spice Market, and recently began selling shisha at the Wahm Lounge, among other things.

Spice Market at the W
Spice Market at the W

According to Safak Guvenc, area manager in Qatar and Oman for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and general manager of the W Doha Hotel and Residences, increased competition helps ensures hotels are not offering guests a “tired product.”

“Competition keeps everybody in line,” he said. “It makes us better.”

Waiting game

But other luxury hotels said they are planning to simply wait out the slowdown.

Speaking to Doha News, Wissam Suleiman, cluster general manager for the Marsa Malaz Kempinski and the Kempinski Suites & Residence Doha, said the current challenge is only a temporary one.

Kempinski Marsa Malaz
Kempinski Marsa Malaz

“People tell me they’re afraid.” he said. “I don’t know why.”

He explained that it is important for those in the hotel business to take the long-term view.

And with Doha’s population set to continue growing and a tourism boom from the 2022 World Cup on the horizon, Suleiman said that he is confident of a bright future.

“We should not look for today. All the hospitality sector should look for tomorrow.”

Tourism push

Finally, many hotel officials have said they are looking forward to the implementation of four-day transit visas upon arrival, which will serve to drive up demand in the industry.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Speaking to the Qatar Tribune, Haseeb Jilani, general manager of Doha Downtown Hotel Apartments said new packages are already in the works:

They will “include airport pickup, comfortable stay in our hotel, sightseeing, entertainment and finally drop in at the airport,” he said.

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