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Cultural tourism takes central stage at Qatar’s ‘Tourism in Tomorrow’s World’ conference

Cultural tourism takes central stage at Qatar’s ‘Tourism in Tomorrow’s World’ conference
February 25, 2014

With the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) predicting that cultural tourism is set to grow at 15% a year, the 'Tourism in Tomorrow's World' Conference has heard that tourism authorities, operators and attractions need to deliver authentic cultural tourism experiences.

Held in Doha, Qatar on 23rd and 24th February 2014, and organised by Stenden University Qatar in partnership with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Al Rayyan Tourism Investment Company (ARTIC), the Conference featured global tourism experts and leaders including QTA Chairman Issa Al Mohannadi, who outline the strategy for the development of Qatar as a world-class tourism destination in the coming years and UNWTO Secretary General Dr Taleb Rifai, speaking on developing tourism to international sustainable standards with UNWTO's globally recognised 'Code of Ethics for Tourism'.

Introducing the conference theme, Stenden University Qatar Executive Dean Professor Robert Coelen stated "cultural tourism has a long history, and is arguably the original form of tourism. It is also one of the forms of tourism that most policy makers seem to be betting on for the future. The (UNWTO), for example, asserted that cultural tourism accounted for 37% of global tourism, and forecast that it would grow at a rate of 15% per year. In fact policy makers, tourist boards and cultural attraction managers around the world continue to view cultural tourism as an important potential source of tourism growth.

"In general there is an increased interest in culture in society as a whole. This is partly due to the number of people entering higher education in Europe being about three times as high today as it was 30 years ago. This means that more people are in a position to interpret and appreciate culture as presented by cultural attractions, museums and historical sites. Modern cultural tourism is a form of tourism that has become so popular that everybody seems familiar with it and many people are keen to develop it. For Qatar in particular, authenticity is a key part of its tourism offering and research indicates that the need for authentic experiences of the past is particularly high among cultural tourists."

The Conference was also addressed the Qatar Museum Authority's (QMA) Cultural Tourism Unit which presented it mission to promote the growth of visitors to Qatar by engaging them in the country's culture and history to promote Qatar as a truly cultural tourist destination.

The Cultural Tourism Unit is focusing on developing and raising awareness of the many cultural tourism sites Qatar has to offer through preserving and interpreting their history and heritage. Plans are underway to restore many more architecturally significant buildings and sites to develop these as cultural centres and galleries for visitors to experience first-hand, the social life in Qatar before the discovery of oil.

Speaking at the Conference, QMA Chief of Archaeology, Architectural Conservation and Cultural Tourism Professor Thomas Leisten explained "the future belongs to cultural tourism. It is central to Qatar's tourism plans, as the country appeals to its visitors through showing off its historical sites and archaeological gems in the best light.

"Having restored many of these - from Barzan Towers to UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Zubarah; 19th century desert forts like Al-Thaqab and Arakiyyat to Bronze Age sites such as purple-dye production site Jazirat Bin Ghanam and the rock carving of Jassassiya to Al Wajba fort which played the role in the defeat of the Ottomans in 1893, Qatar already has places of interest to visit where visitors can soak up its culture and history."

Professor Leiten added that "many more exciting restoration projects are on the horizon, like restoring the old Fish Souq in Al-Khor, built of local stone & traditional materials; and four villages including the old pearl-diving village Al-Mafyar. At the same time, we are also developing a stunning collection of high end venues for all types of events in the future, which will attract the MICE business sector."

QMA connects museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites in Qatar and creates the conditions for them to thrive and flourish. It centralises resources and provides a comprehensive organization for the development of museums and cultural projects, with a long term ambition of creating a strong and sustainable cultural infrastructure for Qatar. Under the patronage of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and led by its Chairperson, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, QMA is consolidating Qatar's efforts to become a vibrant center for the arts, culture and education, in the Middle East and beyond.

Since its foundation in 2005, QMA has overseen the development of the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA), Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, and the Al Zubarah World Heritage Site Visitor Centre. The QMA also manages the QMA Gallery at Katara and the ALRIWAQ DOHA Exhibition Space. Future projects include the launch of the highly anticipated National Museum of Qatar.

As part of its initiative to promote QMA's museums and sites of interest, the QMA's Cultural Tourism Unit has created a series of tour packages allowing people to experience the art and culture of Qatar. Whether on an international stop-over with two hours to spare, or a weekend that could take in a day trip to the desert, these cultural tour packages allow visitors to make the best use of their time in the country.

QMA is committed to instigating Qatar's future generation of arts, heritage and museum professionals. At its core is a commitment to nurturing artistic talent, creating opportunities and developing the skills to service Qatar's emerging art economy. By means of a multi-faceted program and public art initiatives, QMA seeks to push the boundaries of the traditional museum model, and create cultural experiences that spill out onto the streets and seek to involve the widest possible audiences. 

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Images show Qatar's Al Zubara Fort (top) and Museum of Islamic Art (below).






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