Doha, QATAR – Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker has spoken of how the country’s aviation and tourism sectors will help propel Qatar into one of the leading destinations in the world.
Addressing a distinguished gathering in London at the 3rd Annual Finance and Investment in Qatar, Al Baker highlighted the importance of the hospitality sector in an economy which is promoting diversification.
Key figures from political and business circles in Qatar and Britain gathered in the British capital for the two-day conference, held to promote investment opportunities in the Arabian Gulf State.
The conference was opened by the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani, who also delivered the keynote address.
Al Baker, speaking also as chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, said Qatar was experiencing an economic boom, predominantly driven by the energy sector. With the Qatari government actively encouraging diversification by creating an economy based on non-reliance on oil and gas, the investment opportunities, he said, were immense.
In his presentation, ‘Driving the Economic Growth of Qatar’, Al Baker spoke of extremely attractive employment and investment options for companies and individuals. He said the tourism sector, comprising hotels, the national airline and the country’s new airport, helped stimulate opportunities.
Qatar Tourism Authority is actively working towards establishing Qatar as one of the world’s quality destinations for leisure, business, education and sport.
Over the past 12 months, Qatar had hosted more than 80 major sporting events, conferences and exhibitions. With events such as the G77 Conference next month and Doha Asian Games 2006, for which the national airline Qatar Airways is an official partner, Al Baker said the country’s position was being elevated in the global arena.
Last year’s US$15bn masterplan, which focused on the creation of new hotels and tourist attractions, was designed to develop a tourism base to double the number of tourists from 700,000 in 2004 to 1.4m by 2010. The number of hotel rooms will double over the next two years from the current level of 3,700 to 7,400 with key development projects already underway.
Al Baker highlighted some examples, including the Al Sharq Village Resort being developed by Qatar National Hotels, as well as other initiatives such as Pearl Island – the man-made residential and leisure complex off the Doha shoreline.
Al Baker, who has spearheaded the masterplan, is also the brainchild behind the phenomenal growth of Qatar Airways, officially regarded as one of the fastest growing airlines in the world.
He spoke of the meteoric rise of Qatar Airways from a handful of aircraft in 1997 to 40 today, and a figure likely to almost treble to 110 over the next 10 years.
Al Baker was adamant that the airline’s growth could not be viewed in isolation, hence the need for a new international airport to cater for Qatar Airways’ growth.
Construction work on the US$5.5bn New Doha International Airport began in January and is scheduled for completion in three phases beginning in 2009.
Al Baker said the new airport will initially be able to handle 12 million passengers a year, rising to 50 million once fully developed in 2015 to clearly position Qatar as a global hub and world-class aviation centre linking East and West.
He explained that the new airport will be the world’s first to be designed and built specifically for Airbus’s new A380-800 double-decker ‘super jumbo’ – the largest passenger aircraft ever built. The A380 will be capable of carrying more than 550 passengers, with Qatar Airways a launch customer taking delivery of the first of its four A380s in 2009, the year the new airport opens.
Doha-based Qatar Airways will operate a fleet of 110 aircraft by 2013 – almost double the existing size. Qatar Airways has ordered 80 Airbus A350s, 60 Boeing 787s and 32 Boeing 777s, with deliveries of the latter having started in November 2007. The airline is a launch customer of the twin-deck Airbus A380 ‘super jumbos’ with five aircraft on order and scheduled for delivery from 2010. Qatar Airways moves to the New Doha International Airport in 2010, when the first phase of the new facility opens. For more information, visit www.ndiaproject.com
Qatar Airways is one of only six airlines in the world with a Five Star ranking for service and excellence awarded by Skytrax, the independent aviation industry monitoring agency. Skytrax also named Qatar Airways’ cabin crew as Best in the Middle East for the fifth year running in 2007 following a survey of more than 15 million passengers worldwide. For more information, log onto www.qatarairways.com
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