Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) released its tourism performance summary report for the first quarter of 2015 (January-March) revealing continued growth in Qatar’s burgeoning tourism industry.

The report, comparing performance to the same quarter of 2014, shows all key indicators of the tourism sector demonstrated improvement and growth against the same period last year.

Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA, Hassan Al Ibrahim, said:

The month of March witnessed the largest monthly influx of arrivals in Qatar’s history. As tourism is a key piece of diversifying the national economy we look positively on these developments”“These impressive results prompt us to build on them by providing the tourism and hospitality sector with full support, so that it can grow and flourish to carry on its ascending trajectory and achieve even better results in the second quarter of 2015.’

Regional and international visitor arrivals totaled 841,025, representing a strong 11% year-on-year increase. In comparison to Q1 2014, arrivals from the Americas grew by 17%, from Europe by 9%, and from Other Asia by 7%. Arrivals from the GCC, Qatar’s largest source market, grew markedly in Q1 2015, increasing by 16% compared to the same quarter of 2014. Arrivals from other Arab and other African nations remained roughly same.

The overall growth from the GCC countries was primarily dominated by an increase in visitor arrivals from Saudi Arabia which grew by 28% in Q1 2015 compared to the same quarter of 2014. The majority of this growth took place in March when visitor arrivals grew by 82% compared to March 2014, with 241,008 Saudi visitors entering Qatar. At the same time, visitor arrivals from Bahrain, Oman, and UAE also grew during the first quarter of 2015, however, by modest rates.

Regarding accommodation sector performance, all segments performed well for the first quarter of 2015, with only 5-star hotels and deluxe apartments reporting occupancy rates slightly below 80%.

Occupancy rates across all hotels reached 82% in Q1 2015, up 8% in comparison to the same period last year. At the same time, average room rates dropped slightly (by 1%), primarily driven by drops in 4-, 2- and 1-Star hotels.

QTA began collecting performance statistics from Hotel Apartments for the first time in January 2015. Q1 hotel apartments’ data shows strong performance similar to hotel properties, with an average occupancy rate of 80% across all related establishments.

Qatar hosted many high-quality entertainment events, as well as a growing number of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) activities during the first quarter of 2015, which contributed to the realised growth in the tourism sector.

Q1 2015 was marked by the following achievements in Qatar’s tourism sector:

Sectorial capacity building

A number of QTA employees were authorised, upon a decision from the Public Prosecution in Qatar, to act as judicial commissioners after QTA provided them with special training in the field. The newly-appointed judicial commissioners have the full authority to report violations that might be committed by hotels, tourist facilities, or exhibitions in Qatar against the tourism and exhibitions laws and regulations.

QTA hosted a regional seminar of the renowned International Association of Professional Congress Organizers (IAPCO), providing basic and advanced training sessions for professionals on how to organise meetings, incentives, conferencing, and exhibitions (MICE) events.

QTA also hosted a specialised workshop of the International Congress and Convention Association, ICCA, on international association meetings organiaation. The workshop was designed to provide QTA’s partners from the private sector with an introduction about the International Congress and Convention association.

Diversification and development of Qatar’s tourism product and service portfolio

QTA hosted large-scale events, conferences and exhibitions, such as the Doha Jewelry and Watches Exhibition 2015, and the 5th Qatar International Motor Show. QTA also sponsored the ‘Art for Tomorrow’ conference, organised by the International New York Times, in partnership with Qatar Museums and the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage.

Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) 2015, organised by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways, saw more than 170,000 visitors taking part in the festival’s fantastic range of shows and activities. The festival is a platform to showcase global cuisines as well as to show Qatar’s culinary delights and variety of hotels and restaurants.

Qatar hosted a range of high-quality sporting events, including the 2015 World Men’s Handball Championship, where 24 national teams, hundreds of players, and thousands of fans came together for the Championship that lasted for 17 days full of exciting events. Other sporting events held in Qatar during Quarter 1 2015 included the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2015 – AFC Qualifier Doha, the Doha 2015 GCC Beach Games, the Qatar Total Open, and Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Tennis.

Traditional competitions and events drove regional and domestic tourism and excursions such as Desert Caravan Challenge in February, Al Galayel Championship of hunting, and others. These events and challenges are in line with QTA’s objectives to offer authentic Qatari experiences to attract international tourists.

The opening of the Banana Island Resort by Anantara, a large-scale mega project including the first and only over water villas in Qatar as well as a dedicated wellness center which is one-of-a-kind in the Middle East, was launched in early January this year.

Works to complete The Pearl-Qatar project, a unique and innovative mixed-use man-made island, are underway. The project spans over four million square-meters of land that was meticulously developed into a masterpiece of private and modern living. Once fully completed, the project will offer residents and visitors a complete lifestyle experience that includes residential solutions of the highest international standards, a fantastic choice of retail, dining and hospitality offerings and a host of other amenities and facilities.

QTA joined the world in marking Earth Hour 2015, along with a large number of its partners from the public and private sector. Through its participation in the event, QTA sought to raise the awareness of the public as well as of the tourism industry about the importance of being committed to environmental sustainability. QTA is currently revising the Tourism Law to make sure tourism projects abide by environmental sustainability regulations.

Expanding market exposure

QTA led Qatar’s delegation for the ITB Berlin 2015, the biggest European travel trade show, to introduce the country’s superb leisure and recreational facilities to the German, and wider European travel trade. QTA’s private sector partners signed, on the sidelines of the show, a host of agreements with German and European tour operators.

QTA, along with its partners in the Cruise Arabia Alliance, took part in Cruise Shipping Miami 2015 held in Miami, USA, to promote Qatar as a key maritime destination. The largest cruise convention in the world hosted a large number of leading world cruise operators, industry and shipping experts, as well as major cruise destinations.

QTA participated in the fifth edition of the Gulf Heritage Village Festival held in Kuwait with the aim of introducing Qatar’s traditions and authentic hospitality to festival visitors from the Gulf and beyond to promote Qatar as an international tourism destination that takes pride in its culture and heritage roots.