How are established hotels in Doha preparing for the numerous new hotel openings scheduled for the upcoming years?
MACKENZIE: We’ve just changed our brand from Ramada to Radisson Blu. We’re very pleased with that because we’ll get a lot more international business being referred to us. But we welcome the new competition coming in. It’s going to be challenging for us and for the new boys arriving in town. But we welcome that. It’s always great to have something new to aim for and we’re looking forward to it. We discovered 10-15 years ago, just after we came here, that there is a tremendous fun element within Doha. But also, they have to get what the public requires, and that is they need to have selection. For example, here in the hotel, we have up to 22 food and beverage outlets. The food and beverage offering that we have, the selection is there. Other hotels maybe don’t do that. They come in with one coffee shop and one specialty restaurant. But really, they should think again and look at some of their plans. We have been here and people have been extremely, not envious or jealous or anything, but they regard us as one of the major leading lights if you like for the food and beverage offerings in Doha.
How much of a market is there for 3 and 4 star properties in Doha?
MACKENZIE: There is a call for another couple of good 4-star hotels and maybe one or two 3-star hotels. But you know, you come to the Middle East, and the Middle East is a place now, probably the last remaining place on earth where you can get such luxurious service. That’s what we like to promote and that’s what we like to practice. We have got an absolutely tremendous work ethic, not just in the Radisson Blu here, but throughout the Middle East. We can offer these luxury services and that’s what we want to retain. Five-star will always have a big place. I just hope we don’t get into a rate war, which may happen, but we’ve got to sustain our average rates to make the operation payable.
How did the economic downturn impact your average rates? Where do you see average rates moving in the coming years?
MACKENZIE: We’ve gone down; I must say this, in the last year. We’ve gone down a little bit since the 2008-2009 recession. I would say about 7-8%. But the numbers of visitors have gone up, proportionally about 3-4%. So we’re just about there. Going forward, I see the rates increasing. No matter if there is more hotels coming on board. They will take their 5% from the existing market right across all the hotels, 3-5%. They will come up to their 60% occupancy and then we all will go down a little bit. But there is more business coming in. By any factor, the level of business coming in to Doha especially will be increasing.
In your opinion, is Qatar’s focus on high-end tourism sustainable in the long-run?
MACKENZIE: I don’t think it should only be high-end; I think it should be right across the board quite frankly. A tourist is a tourist. We’ve got the World Cup coming and it’s a Ford Cortina man that comes to the World Cup not the Rolls Royce man that comes to the World Cup. I would suggest that we keep the way we’re going at the present moment, right across the board and right across the world to get all types of tourists coming here.
What trends have you witnessed in arrival patterns over the last 2-3 years? What segments or niches present the biggest opportunities for growth?
MACKENZIE: I would suggest that we have got a lot more business people coming in now. Not so much growth in tourism, but certainly more business people coming in here because of the infrastructure. This is not only because of the 2022 World Cup, but business in general is going to be increasing over the next 10-15 years. I would say certainly more tourism is required. But I think that there is some infrastructure required before the tourists are advertised etc. Qatar Airways is a wonderful airline that’s going to over 100 destinations now so there is certainly growth there and that growth is there for the next 10-20 years.
A tourist is a tourist. We’ve got the World Cup coming and it’s a Ford Cortina man that comes to the World Cup not the Rolls Royce man that comes to the World Cup.
Which hospitality related infrastructure improvements are still needed in Doha?
MACKENZIE: I would suggest for that that we should really think about a sort of Disneyland, fair, funfair, attraction in a major way. We have a new water park, Aqua Park, which is just outside of town. But we talked about this maybe 15 or 20 years ago to have a funfair type attraction and we had a small one. But really, to get the place going and to get tourists coming here we should have a major attraction like a Disney park. I would also suggest that we could also go down the route of some extra golf clubs. That would also be appreciated. Some were planned but they've been put onto the back burner for the moment. The World Cup is taking focus now and correctly so. We’ve got about 10 years to get this thing absolutely right, with all the stadiums, the infrastructure for the railways, the new roads, bypasses, flyovers, tunnels, motor systems, motor boats and all those sorts of things. Plus, the new Doha International Airport is coming and that is going to be a tremendous benefit to us.
How is Qatar differentiating itself as tourism destination?
MACKENZIE: I’ve worked in the majority of other Middle Eastern countries, Jordan, Egypt, the Gulf, etc. and I think that Qatar is one of the most wonderful places. We’ve been here for 22 years and this is one of the most wonderful places for friendliness, for cooperation, and for enjoyment. We’ve had tremendous fun here and it really is sun, sand, sea and all that sort of thing. But there is another major factor and that is security and Qatar is certainly a very secure country within the Middle East. It’s very satisfactory.