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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Report: Qatar hotels half-empty in July, although demand is increasing

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For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

Half of all hotel rooms in Doha remained empty during the month of July, although occupancy was up slightly compared to the same month last year, according to a recent review of hotels in major cities in the region.

While showing improvement, Qatar’s hotels fared relatively poorly when compared to hotels in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The latest edition of the monthly HotStats MENA market review shows that average room occupancy for hotels in Qatar during July stood at 49.8 percent, while hotels in Abu Dhabi and Dubai were 60 percent full during the same period and more than three-quarters (80.9 percent) of hotels in the Saudi city of Jeddah had paying guests.

HotStats MENA hotels review July 2015
HotStats MENA hotels review July 2015

Only Cairo hotels fared worse than Doha in cities studied for the review, with 44.8 percent of their rooms occupied over the same period.

Ramadan, which was in June and July this year, is generally not a popular time for Gulf residents to travel, and during the Eid Al-Fitr holiday in mid-July, many this year took the opportunity to escape the heat and humidity of the region.

And while the Emirates cities are popular summer holiday destinations for European tourists, Qatar’s visitor numbers largely comprise those from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Although the Doha hotels lagged behind many of their regional neighbors in attracting guests, the average occupancy rate for hotels in Qatar’s capital was still up 2.7 percentage points compared to July last year.

A sluggish summer for Qatar hotels was offset by a busier first half of the year, helping to push the overall average occupancy rate for the seven months to July to 71.4 percent, showing a very slight increase on the same period last year, when rooms were 70.6 percent full, according to HotStats’ figures.

Attracting visitors

Qatar has ambitious plans to significantly develop its hotel and tourism sector, with the aim of attracting 7 million visitors to the state by 2030.

For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

Half-yearly statistics published by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) in July showed that visitor numbers to the state were up by more than 100,000 in the first six months, putting it on track to meet its target of of 3 million visitors by the end of this year.

In a bid to cater to – and help create – increasing demand for tourists, dozens of hotels and apart-hotels are being built.

Qatar authorities have previously said they wanted to focus on attracting business travelers and those seeking high-end luxury retreats rather than low- and mid-income leisure tourists, for whom Dubai is a popular holiday destination.

Already this year, 11 new hotels opened, creating an extra 1,400 rooms, QTA said, adding that an additional 13 properties were scheduled to open during the latter half of this year, bringing a further 2,500 rooms on line.

Delayed hotel openings

However, it is not uncommon for hotels in Qatar to have to delay their openings, often several times. This can be due to a number of factors, including long lead-times for Civil Defense sign-off on the buildings and other paperwork issues.

Rendering of Westin Doha Hotel & Spa
Rendering of Westin Doha Hotel & Spa

Qatar’s first Westin Hotel, near the junction of Salwa Road and C-Ring Road, was supposed to open on September 1, however this has now been pushed back to November 1, according to an update on the hotel’s website.

The delay is due to issues with “licenses”, a hotel representative told Doha News.

While the hotel is taking room bookings from November 1 online, reservations for its restaurant are not yet available, the representative added.

The five-star hotel in Bin Mahmoud will have 365 rooms and suites, a spa, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a kids’ club, banqueting space, three restaurants, a pool cafe, a lounge/cafe and a bar when it does finally open its doors.

The Shangri-La Doha next to City Center mall is another hotel which has struggled with its original timelines.

In 2012, when Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts announced it had signed a deal with Faisal Bin Qassim Al-Thani & Sons Holding Company to manage the hotel, opening was scheduled for early 2013, Hotelier Middle East reported.

However, hampered by legal and other issues, progress was significantly delayed. While a hotel spokesperson could not confirm an official opening date to Doha News, it is expected to welcome its first customers “soon”.

Under-construction Mondrian Doha Hotel
Under-construction Mondrian Doha Hotel

Meanwhile the Mondrian Hotel near Zig-Zag towers and Lagoona Mall has also had to push back its planned opening several times since it was first announced.

The Morgans Group, 31-story hotel was originally set to open in 2013, then the launch was rescheduled for 2014. In May last year, management said it would open this year.

No-one from the hotel was available to comment on its latest planned opening date.

Cheaper rooms

Wissam Suleiman
Wissam Suleiman

A Qatar hotelier has told Doha News that while he was upbeat that Doha would continue to grow as a destination for international and regional travelers, operators here will have to make their room rates more attractive.

Wissam Suleiman, General Manager of Marsa Malaz Kempinski Hotel on the Pearl-Qatar, said that more big-name hotels arriving on the scene would help to raise Qatar’s profile globally.

“I am optimistic. Five major hotels are coming soon to the city. We will have more marketing, this can show everyone that Qatar is a good place – it’s clean, there are great restaurants, it is a safe country. The competition will be beneficial,” he said.

However, as Qatar’s tourism market expands, he said that existing hotels would need to offer incentives to continue to attract customers to their establishments over their competitors.

“We all have some challenges over room rates. Qatar hotels are expensive, especially compared to those in other cities around us, although we have good quality.

Everyone will be looking for business, and I think everybody will be going to reduce their rates. In fact, this is starting to happen already. We have to have a good rate, to give the right opportunities for people to come here,” Suleiman added, saying his hotel planned to offer discounted rates for the upcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.

Thoughts?

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Ali
Ali
5 years ago

So only lobbies are full of people drinking coffe!

Myrddin
Myrddin
5 years ago
Reply to  Ali

Judging by the absence of lights / life in the actual hotel rooms, I would suspect you are correct?

Katie
5 years ago

Those of us who are stuck here for most of the summer would be glad of some serious summer ‘staycation’ discounts… we get to experience a bit of luxury, they get to fill up some rooms, earn some good will and get some word-of-mouth going.

Katie

Curiosity Killed the Cat
Curiosity Killed the Cat
5 years ago

Business people avoid Qatar during Ramadan because most places are half staffed and the work day is so short, pointless planning any business in Ramadan. The UAE realising this, were smart and kept the tourists still rolling in by allowing them to party during Ramadan (yes alcohol people). They even sponsor half whit reality stars to come and party there. Then you’ve got little Qatar, who doesn’t even allow a beer by the pool and wants 700r a night. Pick your side Qatar, you can’t have it both ways.

qatari
qatari
5 years ago

it was mostly Ramadan, actually Qatar is smart in getting more of the GCC tourist AKA the big spenders ,they spend more every where , not just fill hotels .

brorick
brorick
5 years ago

yes, bend over to the western culture or else the west will bully you!
Im not a fan of this no drinking policy but its part of the religion..its kind of doing well to allow any alcohol at all considering its a conservative country.

Michael L
Michael L
5 years ago

Qatar hotels are seriously over priced and most provide poor value for money.

KK
KK
5 years ago

Check some Western papers at random; type in ‘Qatar’ in the search option and than read the articles and see how ‘popular’ the place is.

Ali
Ali
5 years ago
Reply to  KK

Did this happen before the awarding of the 2022 WC or after?

Ali
Ali
5 years ago
Reply to  KK

And what seems to be the problem in Qatar tourism?

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago
Reply to  Ali

Ali, Qatar is a conservative Islamic culture. It’s fine for GCC visitors of a similar culture, but if you understood western culture you wouldn’t even ask the question.

qatari
qatari
5 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

but GCC visitors are the big spenders not the the western ones.

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

It’s a fantasy. A pipe dream. Qatar may up the number of GCC tourists but it will never capture the European market. A large proportion of Dubai’s tourist income comes from young to middle aged aspirational middle-income professionals and businessmen looking for 3-4* accommodation, and they go there not just to experience the shopping (which Qatar may or may not one day rival) but because Dubai is perceived as having a more liberal, tourist-friendly regime – and frankly that is associated with the ability to relax in the open with a glass of alcohol in front of you. Unless Qatar suddenly has a massive cultural shift, which would include a massive dose of liberalism during WC2022, it will never attain Dubai’s status and I really fear the prospects for Qatar hotel owners after WC2022.

Myrddin
Myrddin
5 years ago

I would have thought that priority should go to finding ways to fill up the empty 50%, before opening more over-priced hotels to compete for the few tourists?

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

I have a few guesses as to why the hotels are half full in July:

a) It’s hotter than Mars
b) There’s nothing to do
c) It was Ramadan and with long, empty, meaningless days
d) The hotels are eye-wateringly expensive
e) There’s a whole world out there which isn’t so awkward or crap

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