Beyond the World Cup in Qatar

Stuart Forster chats to Philip Dickinson, Qatar Tourism’s VP International Markets

Beyond the World Cup in Qatar

Stuart Forster chats to Philip Dickinson, Qatar Tourism’s VP International Markets

It’s been estimated that approximately five billion people around the planet will watch televised games during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But after the competition’s final whistle, Qatar will continue to offer much for travellers according to Philip Dickinson, VP International Markets at Qatar Tourism.

“At Qatar Tourism we’re all about beyond. We’re super excited to have the World Cup but our plans are around consumer awareness.

“Our new campaign is Feel More, which is trying to connect with what we feel is the right audience for Qatar – people that are interested in a beautiful winter sun destination but also somewhere that is steeped in history, culture, art and authenticity. We’re going to be pushing the Feel More campaign, which will highlight the things you can see and do in Qatar,” explains Dickinson, who emphasises that it is a safe destination that is easy to get around.

Kicking off in 2022

“I think the other exciting side of things in Qatar is, of course, all the new product that has come onstream that had to be ready for the World Cup. That includes more than 100 hotels. It’s a great range, from boutique local hotels to larger beachfront resorts with fantastic facilities and a choice of restaurants, spas and everything else,” says the VP International Markets.

“We’ve also got another campaign running during the World Cup with Italian footballer Andrea Pirlo. As we know, Italy didn’t qualify for the World Cup. We’re using him and it’s tongue-in-cheek. It’s a bit of fun – no football, no worries,” he reveals of the campaign that aims to show what holidaymakers can do in Qatar.

“We have some fantastic clips. There’s one where he’s getting off a coach and it looks like he’s going to play in a match. Then you realise he’s with a load of other tourists and he’s going to a museum. There’s another one where he’s doing sand skiing in the desert.”

Training for the travel trade

The UK is one of Qatar’s top five markets for arrivals. Qatar Tourism has a UK office exclusively dedicated to the travel trade.

“We’ve just rolled out our Qatar Specialist Programme. We have a new training programme – something that we have done in-house. It’s our own proprietary system. There are a lot of great modules – very interactive – about 3.5 hours in total. Agents can go in and go out. When they complete a module they get a medal then certification at the end. Importantly, they go into our travel agency community and then there’s a chance to win FAM trips and competitions. We’re very engaged with the frontliners, the bookers,” states Dickinson.

Information about Qatar

“There are two websites that I would encourage the trade to look at. We have a fantastic consumer site with a huge amount of information including suggested itineraries depending on the length of stay and lots of details on hotels, attractions, shopping malls and excursions. That is our visitqatar.com website.

“Then we have a corporate site, qatartourism.com. We have a lot of trade information there, with details of our rep offices and a brand portal. Signing up means access to our assets, including imagery and video content. When we get content creators, influencers and bloggers, we always ask them if is it okay to use material because they see Qatar from a different lens.”

Stop-overs in Qatar

40 million people transited through Qatar in 2019. Only two million travellers spent time in the destination.

“We’ve worked hard to build what we believe is the best value stop-over in the market. It’s a big hub. People can easily travel from the UK to onward destinations in Asia, Africa, Australia and the Indian Ocean with services on Qatar Airways and other airlines. Stop-over prices start from $14 per person per night in a four-star hotel. That can be booked through Discover Qatar, one of the main inbound DMCs in Qatar,” highlights Dickinson.

He suggests that agents should be thinking about Qatar as a stop-over as part of the package when dealing with honeymooners, families or anyone doing an onward trip: “There’s plenty of things people can do for a one- or two-night stop in Qatar with all the museums, the desert, the resorts and the great dining options.”

The VP suggests Qatar offers good value compared to other destinations in the region: “Look at the value-for-money aspect on a point-to-point holiday. Post-World Cup, we’ll have all these additional hotels that are crying out for business, so I would encourage top travel agents to contact their favourite tour operator, or however they source their hotels, to push for deals.”

Fam trips

Approximately 600 members of the UK travel trade visited Qatar in the year leading up the to World Cup on more than 50 fam trips. Many participants were key decision-makers at large tour operators.

“We’ve put together some really fun itineraries so that people get to see the breadth of the destination. We’ll be continuing to do that. It’s one of our key KPIs. Over the next year, I think we’ll be more focused on the frontline  – the bookers, the sellers. We’ll be doing fam trips, roadshows and trade shows to engage with the travel trade,” says Dickinson.

“Why not try us as a family-friendly option for winter sun holidays?” he asks.

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