The number of tourists who visited Qatar during the third quarter of 2011 increased considerably compared with the same period in 2010, according to a report from the Qatar Tourism Authority.
The report, published in November, stated that hotel occupancy during this past summer increased 4% compared with the same period in 2010. Hotels of all grades recorded significant gains, with revenue for four- and five-star hotels increasing by about 161 million riyals ($44 million) during the summer months.
Visitors from Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries increased 24% during the summer as the total number of Gulf tourists rose from 178,245 in 2010 to 221,793 in 2011.
Omran al-Hajiri, marketing director for a Qatari tourism company, said there are several reasons why the number of tourists increased, including Qatar's winning bid to host the 2022 World Cup, which put Qatar on the map of favourite destinations among international tourists.
"The availability of an international airline at the level of Qatar Airways, which reaches 100 destinations worldwide, in addition to regional developments, contributed to the surge of tourists to Qatar, especially from Arabian Gulf countries," al-Hajiri said.
"We have a noticeable presence of Saudi tourists, which is mainly a result of the situation in Bahrain, which used to be the favourite destination for Saudis," he said. "There are unfavourable conditions in many Arab countries, which compels many to look for alternative destinations."
Ali Shaker, an economic analyst, said Qatar has relied on "conference tourism" for several years to bolster the industry.
"About 74 regional and international conferences are held in Doha each year, making it the number one capital city for conference tourism. There are also specialised exhibitions that play a big role in stimulating the tourism sector," Shaker said.
Many Gulf tourists make the trip for the Hiya Abaya Exhibition, an event organised by the Qatar Tourism Authority every year in late November.
"The exhibition draws many designers from different countries in the region. It also reported a large turnout in its first edition last year, which encouraged the authority to expand participation for the second edition that ended a few days ago," said Lahdan al-Muhannadi, director of the exhibitions division for the Qatar Tourism Authority.
The tourism authority announced it would be holding the exhibition four times a year.
Abdulaziz Abdullah al-Shamari, a Saudi national, told Al-Shorfa that "Qatar is an attractive destination for us because of the variety of activities it offers nonstop".
"Two months ago, I attended the Tribeca Doha Film Festival, and I returned to attend a weekly singing event in Souq Waqif. I honestly enjoy my time a lot in Qatar, especially in this beautiful souq."