DOHA TOURISM officials, travel companies, exhibition associations and businessmen from all over the Gulf region, on Wednesday discussed the growing tourism business and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) industry in GCC countries, during the MICE Arabia Congress held in Doha in partnership with the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
With high disposable income and spending power, the GCC is being targeted as international destination and venues for the MICE, but numbers don’t indicate a huge success yet, experts said.
“Arab Spring was really an awakening call for everybody.
It brought change not only in the political sphere but also in the tourism industry.
I think that these changes generated a lot of interest in the Western world, that’s why we are seeing big events taking place here,” said Qatar Chamber Director-General Remy Rowhani.
Talking to Qatar Tribune, Rowhani said that people were focusing on the GCC region more than anywhere else in view of the climate of safety and security.
“We are having a safe region. Qatar was declared as the most peaceful nation in the Middle East and Africa two years ago, and the fastest growing economy in the region with the highest per capita GDP. It’s true that Qatar is an economic entity leading other GCC neighbours but all Gulf countries complement one another.
“We actually don’t compete but complement each other. This has generated lots of interest in the Western world. Tourism is growing particularly in the MICE sector.” President of GCC Network for Research and Development (NDRD) Dr Andy Spiess, presented figures showing tourism development in the GCC countries during 2011. According to him, 15 million tourists visited Saudi Arabia, 11 million were received by the UAE, six million visitors went to Bahrain while 1.7 million tourists were in Qatar.
Spiess assured that the impact of political changes was positive in Qatar where tourism recorded 60 percent growth. “In contrast, we realised that there is a lack of monitoring and independent research as well as a lack of tourism surveys which usually help to analyse tourist feedback,” Spiess said.
“The challenge in the GCC is the deficiency in awareness of tourism development. The GCC is being designed to suit foreigners, not locals. The solution is more respect for local culture and promotion of sustainable tourism (environment protection, ecological processes, natural heritage, and socio-cultural authenticity of host communities),” Spiess further said.
Vice-Chairman of Association of Exhibition Industry (UFI) Saif Mohamed al Midfa from the UAE, and Assistant Vice- President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism Hamad al Sheikh also attended the conference.