Qataris should be proud to work in the tourism industry and not shy away from jobs there because of pre-existing stigmas, a local author has said.
Ali Al-Naama’s “myth-busting” book about travel and hospitality went on sale last week.
In an interview with Doha News, the 28-year-old former international tourism management student said he wrote I’m Such a Tourist in part to encourage more nationals to consider a career in the field.
Qatar has been working to diversify its economy in recent years and tourism is a big part of that effort.
The country has been building more hotels and increasing the number of festivals and special events it hosts, but needs more locals to boost the endeavor, Al-Naama said.
Though his book looks mainly at global tourism trends, including how to woo visitors in different environments, it also examines how Qatar could further extend its own reach.
This includes breaking down what he says are long-held but out-of-date stereotypes about the sector.
Though tourism is gaining traction in Qatar, many locals wouldn’t pursue a career in this field “due to a lack of knowledge,” he told Doha News.
“There are wrong assumptions – that there is no future in tourism or hospitality, or people question what an individual will become or what they will be working as.
And so there are very few young Qatari professionals who are working in tourism and hospitality and who are successful in the field.”
Al-Naama currently works for Manateq, the company behind Qatar’s under-construction special economic zones, and is also about to start a part-time master’s in tourism administration at a US-based university.
He said he had to battle against prejudices when he first decided to start studying tourism.
“Qatar has a lot to offer in terms of tourism and I wanted to be an influencer and role model for other Qataris to be involved in the industry,” he said, adding:
“But when I told people what I was studying, I got questions like ‘what am I going to be in the future, a travel guide? Work in a hotel?’ But I did have the support of my family and friends who believed in me.”
Through his book, Al-Naama said he is trying to foster a better understanding of the modern tourism industry, and persuade more Qataris in particular of the potential of the sector.
“People need to understand that there is more to tourism than just travel. Tourism means developing and planning a destination. Like any other industry, tourism is a business. We need more outreach to better explain and promote what tourism can do for Qatar.
And there are many disciplines – destination development, hospitality management and sports management, which is all part of Qatar’s economic diversification,” he added.
In addition to the new hotels and resorts under construction, Qatar’s tourism effort also focuses on expanding the country’s appeal to cruise ship visitors.
It is already planning on welcoming 30 ships during the 2016/17 winter season – significantly more than the eight that visited last winter – and will create a dedicated terminal in the soon-to-be vacated port near the Museum of Islamic Art.
While Qatar should continue to invest in its “three S’s – sand, sea and sun” to draw more international visitors, its success so far has particularly been due to its promotion of culture and heritage, Al-Naama said.
“Qatar needs to focus on experience-based tourism to diversify. That is, generating income by providing out-of-the-ordinary experiences. It is partly doing this already in Souq Waqif, and it could do more with this,” he said.
Additionally, theme parks are one area that the country hasn’t yet developed but is ripe for growth to bring in visitors from across the globe.
“Qatar needs to establish its own official entertainment and theme parks company and start working towards a plan for the coming years,” Al-Naama said.
Collaboration with major global players such as Universal Studios, Six Flags and Disney could be an option for Qatar if it wants to compete with neighbor Dubai in this field, he added.
“Qatar has lots of potential to develop its tourism economy by planning innovative tourism developments, and with proper awareness it could really develop from being a transit hub to becoming an international destination brand.”
I’m such a tourist is on sale at WH Smith and Virgin Megastores in Qatar and online through Amazon.