TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How was 2017 in terms of business, and how does this compare to previous years? Who is your main source market?
KEMAL BAYIK: Despite certain regional challenges, we consider 2017 as a year of success for Four Seasons Doha. Weak oil prices and the political differences between GCC countries were the two highlights of the year for the market. For us the main accomplishments were the overwhelming demand from the local market and new emerging markets by the help of visa-free access.
Compared to previous years, there was a dose of uncertainty that lead to further price sensitivity. However, in terms of volume, the uplift in domestic market and emergence of new markets mitigated the loss coming from reduced price points.
Tourism authorities continue to focus on diversifying the tourism influx, with the latest and most significant action being flexing the visa process and waving visa requirements for over 80 nationalities, converting Qatar into the most open country in the GCC.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How important is the MICE sector to your business and to the ongoing success and ambitious targets of Qatar’s tourism industry?
KEMAL BAYIK: MICE business is extremely important for all hotels in Doha. For our hotel, the MICE segment represents a significant portion of our top-line performance; almost 20 percent of our rooms and 15 percent of our banqueting revenues.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Qatar Tourism Authority aims to triple the number of business event tourists by 2030, contributing at least half of the country’s revenue from tourism spending. In your opinion what is it that makes Qatar stand out as a MICE destination?
KEMAL BAYIK: Doha is dynamic and purpose built to become an international metropolitan. The flights, airport, hotels, convention space choices, shopping and dining districts, recreational activity zones and entertainment options are all world-class and magnetic.
Doha also has great weather for over 200 days a year. The city offers everything a remarkable city and charming resort destination can offer.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What kind of facilities and services do you offer to cater for MICE clients?
KEMAL BAYIK: We are very versatile and flexible in terms of our offerings in the upscale and luxury segment. Features wise, Four Seasons is an ideal MICE hotel with 232 rooms and suites, a world-class ballroom, with a second one being built to better answer demand. We also have five meeting rooms, 10 food and beverage venues, a great spa, outdoor swimming pool, private beach and private marina. Services wise, imagination is our limits.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are your future plans which aim to further boost the MICE sector in the country, and attract more corporate travellers from regional and international markets?
KEMAL BAYIK: Our job, as Four Seasons, is always to become the ambassadors of our destinations. We will continue to invest in direct sales, consumer marketing and PR efforts, to drive more interest for MICE business from emerging and key feeder markets. We know that for almost every decision maker that visited us thus far, we have had the privilege of hosting one of their programmes.