Building up a portfolio of iconic landmark developments has made Qatar-based Katara Hospitality one of the world’s largest and most profitable hospitality organizations. CEO Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla takes a look at some of the company’s, and the country’s, multibillion-dollar projects and the significant impact tourism development is having on Qatar’s ongoing economic diversification.
Can you give us a brief overview of Katara Hospitality’s vision and how you were able to successfully push the company forward to become one of the world’s largest and most profitable hospitality organizations?
Katara Hospitality, the leading global hotel developer, owner and operator based in Qatar, has cemented its position as Qatar’s flagship hospitality organization, leveraging from more than 45 years in the industry. We are industry pioneers in developing high quality hospitality environments that are characterized by true Arabic hospitality with global appeal. Our continued contributions to the Qatari and global hospitality landscape are synonymous with our passion for the industry, and testament to our strategic intent as we pursue growth in key travel destinations.
Our combined achievements to date illustrate Katara Hospitality’s strategy of investing in iconic hotels while growing a rich collection of peerless hotels in the markets in which we operate. Katara Hospitality’s success in becoming one of the world’s largest and most profitable hospitality organizations hinges greatly on pursuing a growth strategy that bears strong alignment with not only our corporate vision, but also the core tenets of such national initiatives as the Qatar National Vision 2030.
Working closely with key industry stakeholders, such as Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), provides valuable insights into the tourist profile visiting the country and the combined leisure and business experiences they are seeking. We conduct in-depth research on our target markets as well as global trends that impact the sector, evolving guest preferences and international markets in which we operate.
Coupled with continued investment in technology, ongoing property renovations and upgrades to our existing portfolio of hotels, investment in our human resources pool has contributed greatly to our success.
At the core of any successful hospitality business are its people. At Katara Hospitality, we pride ourselves on our talented, enthusiastic and knowledgeable employees, who are dedicated to the growth of the organization and the combined strategy in place to ensure ultimate experiences for our customers.
Can you outline Qatar’s efforts towards successfully achieving Qatar National Vision 2030?
Qatar National Vision 2030 aims to create a roadmap for the nation’s economic, social, human and environmental development, with tangible results contributing to the success of future generations. Qatar is heavily invested in the success of this initiative, with significant efforts being made to review ways in which to further diversify the economy in support of the tenets of Qatar National Vision 2030.
While the extraction of hydrocarbons has been the cornerstone of rapid growth for Qatar, organizations such as ours have contributed immeasurably to the nation’s economic growth. Katara Hospitality has emerged as a pioneer in steering the diversification of Qatar’s industrial revenue source in a non-energy sector, bringing to light the much-needed thrust for diversification of Qatar’s revenue sources.
Qatar will also leverage from the robust pipeline of mega projects across multiple sectors. Liberal international trade options, efficiency of banking systems and availability of funds, less bureaucracy and flexibility in institutional recruitment are all additional indicators that have helped steer the economy on an upward trajectory, thereby contributing to achieving Qatar National Vision 2030. Investment has been significant in Qatar, with major global players across multiple sectors looking at Qatar as a potential destination for future investment and organizational expansion.
What are some of the large investments being funneled into key sectors to make the nation’s dream of hosting the World Cup 2022 a success?
The Qatari government continues its commitment towards massive capital expenditure and infrastructural development as the nation braces to host the FIFA World Cup 2022. The private sector plays a pivotal role in the growth of the economy as it leverages from the governmental support through economic policies in favor of trade and commerce.
Qatar is currently embarking on several infrastructural improvements across all sectors, not only in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2022 but also in support of the national development agenda. Such projects as Al Rayyan, Al Wakrah, Khalifa International, Al Khor and Lusail Stadiums, the Doha Metro project, which is expected to be one of the world’s most advanced rail systems once the first phase is complete, upgrades to Hamad International Airport to combat the region’s growth and rise in leisure and business travelers, Doha Expressway Systems and drainage programs are some of the many multibillion-dollar initiatives in Qatar’s projects pipeline.
Lusail Marina District, home to Katara Hospitality’s award-winning Katara Towers development, is poised to be a huge attraction for Doha’s residents as well as international visitors given the significance of this project. An iconic and ambitious project poised to open in 2018, with an architectural design that is set to become a hospitality landmark in Lusail Marina District, the Katara Towers development boasts a five-star luxury hotel, a five-star ultra-luxury hotel and branded apartments, a remarkable man-made satellite beachfront island complete with an unrivalled mix of leisure and water sports facilities, food and beverage outlets, as well as world-class water parks with sun-protected gardens to match.
The Katara Towers development is one of our many projects that is testament to our commitment to Qatar’s economic and tourism landscape.
What is your view of the implementation of the reforms that aim to improve the living conditions of migrant workers?
Qatar fully acknowledges the importance of its combined labor force, with job terms and employment contract transparency contributing to the nation’s overall progression and human capital development. Qatar has made significant strides in addressing the needs of migrant workers, with new policy implementation and improved conditions an ongoing process that is high on our government’s agenda.
This looks like a good opportunity, particularly to be aligned with Qatar National Vision 2030.
While the scales of local and foreign investment have tilted heavily towards the hydrocarbons sector industry in years past, we are witnessing a shift in the economic landscape, a strong drive towards the growth of the financial services, transport, tourism, and construction industries.
Tourism, in particular, has received a massive boost of several billion dollars, with Katara Hospitality in the forefront of steering innovation and developmental initiatives that contribute to Qatar and the region’s tourism landscape. Aforementioned mega projects such as the development of Lusail District and Katara Hospitality’s Katara Towers illustrate the changing tide, with more non-energy industries particularly hospitality and tourism, contributing positively towards Qatar’s economy.
What efforts are being made to promote Qatar’s cultural identity and heritage?
Katara Hospitality places high value in promoting and preserving the rich cultural identity and heritage of the country, and works closely with national authorities such as QTA, who promote the same values. Having evolved into a highly profitable hospitality player within Qatar and beyond, our organizational values are steeped in promoting contemporary interpretation of the traditional values of Arabic hospitality.
The recently launched Murwab Hotel Group, Katara Hospitality’s standalone operating arm which manages a collection of international upscale boutique hotels and brands, is a premium example of our efforts to preserve our heritage for future generations as we expand our property portfolio through a concept that is rooted in Qatari heritage and Arabic hospitality.
How successful has the diversification strategy been to reinforce the resilience of the Qatari economy, as the drop in commodities prices continues to affect the main countries in the region?
In light of the region’s prevailing economic conditions, Qatar’s economy has in recent years pursued significant diversification, with a noticeable movement away from sole reliance on the oil and gas sector. As mentioned before, these strides have seen an upsurge in local and foreign investment in the growth of alternative industries such as financial services, transport, tourism and construction. The travel and tourism sector, which is a key driver of any global economy, has received a massive boost from the government, with billions of dollars being injected into the development and upgrading of Qatar’s tourism infrastructure.
How has the impressive recovery of America’s economy and the need for investment diversification put the US at the forefront of Qatar Investment Authority’s investment strategy?
The recovery of the United States’ economy has influenced Qatar’s decision to invest upwards of $35 billion in US assets over the coming years in a bid to diversify its asset base. As part of the nation’s investment strategy, Qatar Investment Authority aims to seek opportunities for long-term growth while leveraging from establishing new relationships through exposure to new markets. A global diversification strategy is an intelligent pursuit given the ongoing shift of world economies and the volatility of markets and currencies across the globe.