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Katara Hospitality

Rendering of new aqua park for Qetaifan Island North

A new luxury resort with a water park and four-star hotel will be built on an island off the coast of Lusail, Katara Hospitality announced this week.

The triangular Qetaifan Island North is expected to attract both tourists and residents.

The first phase of the project – the aqua park and 400-room hotel – should be completed by spring 2022, the state-funded hospitality group said.

Katara Hospitality

Rendering of development on Qetaifa Island North

Renderings of the resort show multiple pools with water slides, all set in landscaped grounds and adjacent to a series of beaches.

Leading off that is a pier extending out to another smaller island, and little trains appear to run the length of the connection.

The project is the first new tourist development to be announced since Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) said last week that it will be ramping up efforts to attract 5.6 million visitors to the country by 2023.

More visitors

The resort will be developed and managed by a new company, Qetaifan Projects, which is a QR11 billion subsidiary of Katara Hospitality.

Meanwhile, project management consultants Atkins will design the masterplan, infrastructure and components of phase one.

QTA/Twitter

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

A shopping plaza, park, souq, mixed-use retail complex and staff accommodation are all planned for the second stage of the island’s development.

Katara Hospitality has not yet given an opening date for this phase.

Second island

The development will be one of two adjacent islands off the coast of Lusail city.

Qetaifan Island South is being run by Lusail Real Estate Development Company and will feature luxury villas.

In March 2014, 50 plots were sold to developers, while a year later a further 35 plots villas were snapped up in a public offering.

Lusail Real Estate Development Company

Qetaifan Island bridge

According to Lusail’s website, this island promises “exclusive property” with communal areas, dune-grassed landscaping with boardwalks as well as pools and spas.

Both islands will be connected to the mainland by “iconic” hanging bridges, Katara Hospitality said.

Previous plans have shown a cluster of four islands, however the latest announcement mentions only two.

Lusail ‘extension’

The new island is the latest development for Katara Hospitality. It plans to expand its current portfolio of 42 hotels in a dozen countries, to 60 properties by 2026.

Construction is underway on another key landmark project by Katara Hospitality in the new city – Katara Towers, which are expected to be complete by 2020.

Kling Consult

The Katara Towers at Lusail

When complete, it will house two hotels, luxury apartments, restaurants and entertainment and recreation facilities.

The hotel owner/operator has billed the north island development as a “key element of Lusail City’s expansion.”

Ambitious plans for Lusail include attracting 200,000 people to live there by 2022. However, much of the new city is still under construction.

In addition to hosting Qatar’s centerpiece World Cup stadium, the city will have multiple hotels and upscale shopping malls as well as residential complexes and business towers.

Additionally, a light rail network is being built, which will ultimately have four mainlines covering 33km.

The first line – yellow – is expected to start operating in January 2019, with the rest following by 2020, according to the joint venture QDVC.

Other resorts

This is not the first time developers have proposed plans for new island resorts off Qatar’s coast.

Penny Yi Wang

Oryx Island

In May 2013, Barwa Real Estate announced the $5.5 billion Oryx Island, which would feature a water park, villas with private beaches and five floating hotels, to be used during the 2022 World Cup.

The manmade island would have been built using excavated material from the construction of the Doha Metro, Barwa officials said at the time.

However, just a year later those plans have already been shelved.

Al Bandary Real Estate

Amwaj suites and residences

Meanwhile, in Lusail itself, Bandary Real Estate announced in 2015 it would be building a different water park, called Amwaj (“waves”), which has multiple pools next to two linked residential towers.

Thoughts?

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Popular video and voice calling service Skype has confirmed that it is now blocked in Qatar.

In a post on its FAQ pages, the company said that usage of the app was being stopped by ISPs (internet service providers) in Qatar.

Stating that there was “very little Skype can do about this situation,” it added:

“The best course of action would be for you to speak to your ISP and ask why they are blocking Skype and request that they unblock our site and services.”

Skype’s statement follows a message from Viber to its users last month stating that the service was “now unblocked” following a software update:

The statements from Skype and Viber finally offer some insight into the widespread problems people are having with VoIP apps in Qatar.

Residents first started noticing issues when trying to use Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and Facetime in late August, shortly before Eid.

No public announcement

Despite repeated requests from Doha News for comment, Qatar’s two ISPs, Ooredoo and Vodafone, have remained silent on the VoIP issue.

Vodafone / Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, Ooredoo did release a statement over the Eid break denying that it was behind the problem:

“Quality assurance for calling using these apps is out of Ooredoo’s control. However, we can guarantee that the issues are not from Ooredoo Super net. Eid Mubarak.”

Meanwhile, Qatar’s telecoms regulator, the CRA, initially told the Gulf Times that it had launched an investigation into the issues.

However, it has made no further comment and has not responded to any of Doha News’ requests for more information.

Facetime developer Apple and the team behind Viber have also not yet responded.

Ongoing frustration

For the vast majority of Qatar’s residents, VoIP is a lifeline, providing a cheap, easy way to stay in touch with loved ones who don’t live in the country.

Many people have taken to social media in recent weeks pleading for answers from their ISPs:

However, although the most popular apps have stopped working, there do seem to be some workarounds.

Skype link to QNA hack

It remains unclear why Qatar ISPs have blocked VoIP services.

But the government did say that the hacking of Qatar News Agency earlier this year involved the use of Skype.

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The planting of a fake news story on QNA triggered the current GCC crisis. In a statement about it, the Ministry of Interior said:

“On April 22, the hacker exploited a vulnerability in the website, installed the malicious programs and intruded into the network.

The vulnerability was shared with another person via Skype, who accessed it at 5:47 am from an IP address of one of the siege.”

Thoughts?

Ray Toh

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

After falling for three months over the summer, Qatar’s population reached 2,634,234 at the end of September, according to new government figures.

That’s up almost 190,000 people from August, and an increase of 3 percent from the previous September.

Population numbers usually rebound after summer and Eid holidays.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

They then tend to peak in November before people go out of town again for winter break.

September’s figures show that Qatar is inching back up toward its higher-ever population of 2.7 million, which was recorded in May this year.

Tapering off

Though Qatar’s population continues to increase, growth has slowed from double digits in years past to below 5 percent this year.

This is partly because of declining demand for labor as some infrastructure projects near completion.

There have also been layoffs in several sectors due to belt-tightening measures.

The Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics had forecast this shift previously, saying it expected growth to taper off by the middle of this year.

Thoughts?