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New support for tourism start-ups in Qatar

Article - June 29, 2016

QBIC Tourism, Qatar’s first specialized incubator for tourism start-ups, launched officially on January 25, 2016, and witnessed an increase in the number of applications for its start-up services rise 100% in its first three months.


Guided by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), QBIC Tourism is a specialized incubator that enables entrepreneurs to develop products and services that enhance the Qatar tourism experience, by providing them with unique business development tools and access to insight and guidance from QTA decision-makers.

During incubation, potential tourism entrepreneurs can develop and expand their business ideas within any of the four main sectors of tourism activity that have been identified as priorities for Qatar: business events, urban and family entertainment, sports and recreation, and culture and heritage products.

QBIC Tourism’s launch event took place at the head office of the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC), one of the largest mixed-use business incubators in the MENA region, and was attended by Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, QBIC Chairman and QDB CEO, and Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Al Khalifa said, “Start-ups and small businesses are the foundation of a thriving, diversified economy. A central tenet for QBIC is to be continually strengthening our start-up culture in Qatar, not only by providing the support and space that every business needs, but by partnering for specific excellence and cutting-edge opportunity within prominent industries. The new launch of QBIC Tourism by QBIC in partnership with QTA is a superb example of this principle in action. We believe that backing start-ups and scale-ups now will help produce a mature and sustainable tourism sector in the near and medium term.”

Diversification opportunities

In Qatar, tourism is playing an increasingly pivotal role in diversifying the nation’s economy, providing a shield from oil price fluctuations. The QTA identifies types of tourism products and services that will contribute to a more diverse tourism offering and works to attract investment for their development.

The involvement of homegrown talent in developing Qatar’s tourism sector is crucial to ensuring that visitor experiences are embedded in, and reflective of, the country’s national culture and heritage. Today’s start-ups in QBIC Tourism therefore have a unique opportunity to participate in laying the foundations for a strong tourism industry that will continue to grow and contribute to the national economy up to and beyond the FIFA World Cup 2022.

“QBIC Tourism is a very exciting new opportunity,” affirmed Aysha Al Mudahka, QBIC’s CEO. “Small and medium-sized enterprises account for the majority of businesses worldwide and play significant roles in any nation in generating IP and building economic resilience. We are delighted that QBIC Tourism will be helping to develop Qatar’s increasingly important tourism offering by providing practical assistance, hands-on experience, and the sharing of innovative opportunities and ideas.”


One of QBIC’s flagship initiatives is LeanStartup, a 10-week entrepreneurial program that provides real world, hands-on learning experience on how to successfully start a company. With the tourism incubator officially launched, Ms Al Mudahka encouraged potential entrepreneurs in Qatari tourism to apply. Five of the already incubated companies at QBIC Tourism were selected during the QBIC ‘Demo Day’ last December at the end of a 10-week program for developing and testing start-up business ideas.

“We know from experience that all entrepreneurs benefit enormously from practical assistance and the opportunity to network and collaborate with experts and business creatives,” Ms Al Mudahka said. “With QTA guidance, QBIC Tourism promises to be a fast track to business viability for successful candidates in tourism. Whether in business events, urban and family entertainment, sports and recreation, or culture and heritage, Qatar-based entrepreneurs with a good business idea for Qatar’s growing tourism industry can get started now by getting in touch with us.”

Specialized support

QBIC has proved a highly successful business incubator since its inception, offering training, mentoring, office and workshop space, and financial assistance for start-ups in any field. Building on this success, more recently QBIC has partnered with other organizations, including the QTA, to set up specialized incubators so that entrepreneurs and SMEs in certain sectors can benefit from invaluable industry-insider expertise and connections. QBIC Tourism has been launched as one of this new breed of incubators offering potential businesses a particular focus.

Mohamed Al Rumaihi, co-founder of Howlak, an incubated start-up company that designed a social opinion mobile application that uses visual ratings and short opinion polls to help visitors discover and share what’s good around them, said: “QBIC has offered my company invaluable support, and has equipped us with the tools we need to develop our services and expand our team rapidly. We’re delighted to be of the first few companies to receive specialized support, and hope we can continue to grow our contribution to society in the coming years.”

Kholoud Al Mohamed, founder of newly incubated start-up Reminisce, which offers cultural camping trips in the desert, said: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the exciting entrepreneurial scene in Qatar, and look forward to developing my start-up and offering tourists a memorable experience when they visit Qatar.”

The next QBIC Tourism LeanStartUp program, LSP7, is scheduled to launch September 26, 2016. Potential entrepreneurs looking to take their first step, as well as existing tourism start-ups wanting to expand, are encouraged to get in touch early.


About QBIC

Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) is one of the largest specialized mixed-use business incubators in the MENA region. QBIC empowers committed entrepreneurs to start and grow companies by incubating, developing, connecting and investing, and QBIC is dedicated to the long-term success of entrepreneurs.

QBIC is founded by two of the leading entrepreneurship institutes in Qatar: Qatar Development Bank (QDB), and the Social Development Center (SDC). With a mission to develop the next QAR 100 million companies in Qatar, QBIC is working to unify efforts with key entities in Qatar to develop SMEs and enhance the private sector.

One of QBIC’s flagship initiatives is LeanStartup, turning innovative ideas into start-up businesses. LeanStartup is a 10-week entrepreneurial program that provides real world, hands-on learning experience on how to successfully start a company.

In an effort to provide QBIC entrepreneurs with sector specific support, and access to experts in select industries, QBIC is partnering with leading organizations in Qatar to create specialized incubators designed to address existing industry gaps, and generate further opportunities to the Qatari society.

The first partnership, signed in 2014, was with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), to establish QBIC Tourism. The second partnership, signed in 2015 with Ooredoo Qatar, set up a Digital & Beyond incubator. In the near future, QBIC plans to establish other sector-specific incubators in the areas of education, fashion/retail, media and sports.


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