(MENAFN- The Peninsula) Doha: Movements in Qatar's inbound and outbound tourism have begun picking up steam with the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions, and the country's hosting of several international events such as the first Qatar Travel Mart (QTM) 2021 which concluded recently, in addition to a number of high profile sports events just around the corner including the Formula One race, FIFA Arab Cup, and the World Cup Qatar 2022.
Similarly, residents from Qatar have also started resuming their long awaited foreign trips with some Qataris now back to their pre-pandemic travel mode. Country representatives participating at QTM 2021 took note of this, and are now wooing Qataris to discover or rediscover their tourist destinations.
Speaking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of QTM 2021, President of the Italian National Tourist Board Giorgio Palmucci said:“With all the events Qatar is organising, like the Formula One and the World Cup, it is really important to be here. Qatar is an important market for us. And at the same time, we know that there are many Italian tourists who are ready to come to Qatar. Doha is also very important for Italian tourists travelling through Doha to go all over the world. The Minister of Tourism in Italy is working to make it much easier to come to Qatar. I think during the winter times, from December, there will be an increase of tourists coming from Italy to Qatar. I am very optimistic.
President of the Italian National Tourist Board Giorgio Palmucci
“We are also ready to host the new tourists. In Italy now, about 94 percent of Italian citizens are vaccinated. We are a safe country. We know that even for the future, it's important to guarantee the safety even when COVID-19 disappears. I think safety will be the most important reason to choose a destination,” Palmucci added.
Italy's Ambassador to Qatar Alessandro Prunas
Italy's Ambassador to Qatar H E Alessandro Prunas also said:“Countries are reopening for tourism, and Italy is among them with all the precautions that are necessary. Italy is one of the major tourist destinations in the world. We are the fourth largest destination, and Italy has over 70 percent of the world heritage according to UNESCO. We do look at the Qatari market as a very important market because we know that Qataris love Italy, and we have lots of similarities. We really encourage everyone who really wants to come to Italy to come because we're open for business”.
According to the Manager of Almuftah Travel and Tours Khalid Lakmoush, Qatar's travel market is now in a much better position than last year when countries have closed their borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manager of Almuftah Travel and Tours Khalid Lakmoush
“We have started seeing a pick-up in bookings from April this year, and business has grown by 65 to 70 percent compared to last year. People actually want to travel already. And they are now much more experienced in dealing with the COVID restrictions. It's now normal for people to wear the face masks and do PCR tests unlike before. Previously, people were even afraid to go to the airports. But they have now adjusted,” said Lakmoush.
He added:“We have good bookings from India, Pakistan, and even from Europe. Although not that much from other Asian countries. We also have business trips from Europe coming to Doha. Also, we are seeing good bookings for outbound. We are seeing London as the first destination for people from Qatar, followed by Turkey. There are also good bookings to other European countries like Switzerland, France, Germany, and Italy. But it's still not yet back to pre-pandemic levels. Maybe, we still need one to two years more to go back to pre-pandemic levels. But as more countries open, we'll start to see more inbound and outbound travels”.
Swiss Ambassador to Qatar Edgar Doerig
Speaking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of the 'Switzerland Travel Experience 2021' which was hosted at the Swiss Ambassador's residence and attended by Switzerland representatives participating at QTM and their counterparts in Doha recently, Swiss Ambassador to Qatar H E Edgar Doerig said that Switzerland's successful qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will also lead to greater interest among Swiss people to visit Doha.
“We know that Switzerland is qualified for the World Cup. So the interest to come and experience Qatar, not only for the World Cup, but beforehand and after, I'm sure will be increasing. We see that since the COVID-19 restrictions have eased a lot, Swiss people are coming here again to visit and explore new market opportunities for investment as well. I do see that there will be more opportunities again for tourism and leisure, and I expect an increase in both directions,” Doerig added.
Director for GCC at Switzerland Tourism Matthias Albrecht
According to the Director for GCC at Switzerland Tourism Matthias Albrecht, tourist arrivals from the Gulf region to Switzerland has already exceeded pre-pandemic levels, with a 3 percent increase recorded in September compared to 2019.
“Before the pandemic, about 13 to 14 percent of the whole GCC visitors (almost 1 million overnight stays) came from Qatar. One great advantage of Switzerland is the diversity. Halal food is also not a problem. But there's absolutely a growing interest from Swiss people to also visit Qatar,” he said.
Director Markets at Switzerland's Interlaken Tourism Renato Julier
Director for Markets at Switzerland's Interlaken Tourism Renato Julier added:“Switzerland was always one of the safest countries in the world. It's also very sustainable, which we call 'Swisstainability'. People are looking forward to getting unspoiled nature experiences, and real adventures. At the same time, we are also looking forward to the World Cup 2022 in Qatar. This is something new because this is the first time it will happen in winter. And people are not used to seeing this. I expect more people traveling. And I think this exchange is really important”.
Poland is also eyeing an increased number of tourist arrivals from Qatar.
Polish Ambassador to Qatar Janusz Janke
Polish Ambassador to Qatar H E Janusz Janke told The Peninsula:“The Embassy aims to amplify the positive image of Poland in Qatar: of a modern, dynamic economy, member of the European Union and an attractive investment and tourist destination. Travelers from Qatar particularly value Poles' hospitality and the unspoiled natural beauty of Polish forests, mountains, lake regions and the seaside. Qatar Travel Mart 2021 seems to be a great opportunity to encourage people to visit our country as well as establish contacts between Polish and Qatari tour operators”.
Project Manager at Polish Tourism Organisation Dorota Zadrozna
Project Manager for Marketing at the Polish Tourism Organisation Dorota Zadrozna also said:“We received a lot of visitors to our stand at QTM who wanted to visit Poland. And people are looking for nature travels. We are a strong destination when we talk about nature travels and the big cities. At the moment, the numbers are not yet growing, with some people still afraid of traveling far distances. But in general, people want to travel and they are waiting for the borders to be reopened.
Qatar is an interesting tourist destination. Many Polish people worked in Qatar many years ago, and in the same way many people from the Gulf have visited Poland a long time ago. We both remember our countries from the past. Now, we both would like to see the changes and see those countries from the beginning. We have this sentimental connection,” Zadrozna added.
Asked on when she sees global travel and tourism going back to pre-pandemic levels, she said:“We must be optimistic because we're working in tourism industry. All statistics say that next year should be better. We have to understand that this COVID-19 will stay with us longer, and we must learn how to live with that”.
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