To be really honest, Qatar in general, and Doha in particular, were not destinations where, as a meetings journalist, I really wanted to go. Reports on the FIFA World Cup 2022 having been ‘bought out’ and legions of poor labour workers suffering in the scorching heat didn’t not sound very attractive to say the least. When I travelled early September for a brief press trip at the invitation of Qatar Tourism Authority, I was surprised to discover a place with a vision, a destination with a strong strategy towards business events, both traditional and very open to the world.
Rémi Dévé reports
First an impression. With construction sites, cranes and visible high-end developments everywhere you go, Qatar is on the verge of becoming a major player in the meetings industry. It starts when you land at the state-of-the-art, brand-new Hamad International Airport, complete with a 50 million passenger traffic capacity, and doesn’t stop until you go dune bashing! Simply put, it is a bit crazy: there are countless meeting options popping up everywhere, from the awe-inspiring Museum of Islamic Arts to the new kid on the block, Doha Exhibition and Convention Center; there should be an additional 70 hotels in the years leading to the World Cup, and there is also the 300-kilometre-long Doha Metro project…
It might well be only the beginning. Indeed, Qatar has a vision. If today they may still rely on oil and natural gas to fuel a growing economy, the ultimate aim is to tranform it into a knowledge-based economy, with a strong position as an education and sporting hub in the Gulf. As a spokeperson at Qatar Tourism Authority explains: “The MICE industry is aligned with other sectors in Qatar that the country’s leadership has identified as national priorities. The Qatar National Vision 2030 prioritises education, environment, construction, sports and, naturally, oil and gas, which is why Qatar tends to host a high concentration of events in these fields.”
The epitome of this might well be Education City, which I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of. Home to Doha’s most high-profile academic and research institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar or Northwestern University in Qatar, just to name a few, it is a huge area which is instrumental in making Doha a centre of excellence. The iconic Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC), opened in 2011 in the shadow of its impressive Sidra tree, is part of Education City, and boasts a hall for up to 4,000 people, a 2,300-seat theatre, 3 auditoria, 52 meeting rooms, and, last but not least, 40,000 sqm of exhibition space across 9 halls.
Of course during my way too short visit, I could visit only but a few of the places Doha boasts so people can meet and/or which delegates can enjoy after a hard day’s work at a conference. Below are my personal highlights.
In addition to the above-mentioned QNCC, Doha Exhibition and Convention Center (DECC) opened its doors last year in the city’s financial district, and was designed as a blank canvas for event organisers. One of the key features of its main 29,000sqm hall is a lack of columns, giving conference planners more flexibility. There are also 18 meeting rooms available split across four self-contained suites for up to 195 people, and no less than 9 five-star hotels at walking distance. Who could ask for more?
Speaking of accommodation, you would think that Qatar only caters to the rich and famous, but not at all! There are facilities for everyone. I stayed at Crowne Plaza Doha – The Business Park, your straight forward business hotel, but with a twist: in addition to 14 meetings rooms, its centrally located, globe-shaped Event Center has 3 ballrooms capable of accommodating up to 800 guests. On the other hand, at 300m high and with 360° panoramic views across the whole of Doha, The Torch Doha is like nothing I’ve seen before: for sports enthusiasts and business delegates alike, it’s equipped with iPad in-room solutions and boasts meeting spaces for up to 300 people.
The Sheraton Grand Doha was recently restored to its former glory – it is the very first conference hotel in the city and was built in 1982. Set amidst 70 acres of an oasis-like resort, it boasts more than 3,000 sqm of space hosting up to 9,000 guests. Last but not least is Marsa Malaz Kempinski, which screams opulence, luxury and excellent service. Located on its own secluded island, The Pearl, it will impress the most demanding visitors with its 281 luxury rooms, including 69 suites, two Presidential Suites and two Royal Suites. In terms of meetings, it features a superior conference centre spanning 1,100 sqm including two ballrooms and six more intimate meeting rooms.
Business Events Department
Qatar Tourism Authority
T. +974 44997499
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