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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Growth in tourism?

Qatar expects 1,500,000 million tourists by 2010 according to this story in the Gulf Times today. Apparently they had 900,000 visitors in 2006.

Exactly where all these visitors are I don't know, as I've met precisely two tourists in the last two years.

The first was a British-Sri Lankan chap with his family, taking a stop-over on the way to Sri Lanka. I met him on the plane on the way back to Qatar in August 2006. The poor guy didn't realise that the temperature was in the high 40's, and that he wouldn't be able to venture outside.

The second was in the Qatar National Museum. In an hour of walking round the former palace we met one other person - a Swedish lady staying in the Sheraton Hotel.

I wonder how the numbers of tourists are counted? If they count the number of tourist visas given out, it would include all the people who come to visit families, look for jobs and also certain dodgy ladies who frequent the bars here.

Still, there's good shopping here, and the newly rebuilt Souq Waqif is fantastic. They've made it easy to get a tourist visa, there's good desert tours, and an entertainment city is being built. You can certainly do things you probably can't do at home: sand ski-ing, sand boarding and big game fishing (if you can ever manage to organise a trip). If Qatar could clean up the beaches a bit and actually promote camel racing instead of hiding it away, it could really become a worthwhile destination.

As long as they don't try to persuade people to come in August, that is.

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