Qatar expects more than five million people to visit the Gulf state in 2023 despite a post-World Cup lull, its tourism chief said on Sunday.
Akbar Al-Baker, head of Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism, admitted that hotels had fallen quiet after the World Cup final on December 19.
But he insisted that every World Cup host has the same lull after the tournament and that hotels were still 65-70 percent full.
Baker told a press conference there were 1.16 million visitors in the first quarter of 2023 and told AFP on the sidelines that he expected “at least” five million over the year.
In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, there were about 2.1 million tourists. By comparison, rival Dubai had more than 14 million tourists in 2022.
As part of a bid to end reliance on its natural gas riches, Qatar has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure for tourism and hosting major sports events.
The government has set a target of six million foreign tourists a year by 2030. “I think we will not be too far away from the target” in 2023, Baker told AFP.
“Because of FIFA we built so much infrastructure in the hospitality industry and of course now it is our job to make sure that in the coming months we are making sure that occupancy rates go up.”
Qatar, which says there were 1.4 million visitors during the World Cup, is predicting foreign travellers will make up about one third of the three million people expected to attend an international horticultural expo that runs from October 2 until March 28, 2024.
© Agence France-Presse