In Doha, tourism industry welcomes return of Chinese customers

The long-awaited return of Chinese tourists will fuel a strong recovery in world tourism after “two years of hell” due to Covid-19, industry players said in Doha this week.

As part of the Qatar Economic Forum, aircraft manufacturers, airlines and hotel tycoons welcomed strong reforms in the sector, stressing the importance of the Asian country’s customers.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said “wandering hobbyists have never been bigger and the industry is struggling to meet that demand.”

If the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere should allow air traffic to return to its pre-pandemic level, carriers are also counting on Chinese passengers, freed from restrictions imposed during the pandemic, to fill their coffers .

Akbar Al Baker, owner of the Qatar Airways airline in Doha on November 13, 2022 (AFP/Archives – Giuseppe CACACE)

Qatar Airways flights from China are “absolutely full”, rejoiced Akbar Al-Baker, the Gulf company’s boss.

“Not only are they paying the fares imposed due to lack of available capacity, but they are also spending more money at our duty-free shops at (Doha) airport than any other citizens,” he added.

For American-Thai billionaire William Ellwood Heineke, owner of Minor International Hotel Group, the boom in Chinese demand should be fully realized in the second half.

“We are definitely on the rebound, but most importantly we haven’t seen China back yet,” he said, adding that the number of Chinese tourists to Thailand was still down 85% in the first quarter. 2019.

Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, who exclusively owns AirAsia, hopes the low-cost carrier’s 250 planes, during the health crisis, could be back in service by the month of August.

“We are in a strange situation: yesterday we were fighting for our survival, today we are resupplying 200 aircraft, which is a huge task,” he said.

– “Reasonable Price” –

Industry players have seen a shift in the market, with leisure travel taking over business travel, which traditionally accounts for two-thirds of demand.

Camel ride in the dunes of Al Wakhra, south of Doha, December 12, 2022 (AFP/Archive - David Gannon)
Camel ride in the dunes of Al Wakhra, south of Doha, December 12, 2022 (AFP/Archive – David Gannon)

“This distribution will probably reverse. We are already at 55% for leisure and 45% for business”, assures Sébastien Bazin, CEO of Accor Hotel Group, the largest in Europe, noting in particular that this trend is related to remote working. attributed to.

Industry representatives also defended the high prices in the market citing losses incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’ve gone through two hellish years,” Bezin recalled, adding that deluxe room rates are currently 33–35% higher than in 2019, while regular rooms are 10–12% more expensive. ,

The lobby of the Al-Messila Hotel in Doha on October 13, 2022 (AFP/ARCHIVES - -)
The lobby of the Al-Messila Hotel in Doha on October 13, 2022 (AFP/ARCHIVES – -)

He added that the hospitality industry is also facing increasing difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees.

Heineke said institutions dependent on low interest rates, cheap labor and low energy prices need to rethink their models.

As for plane tickets, they are now at “reasonable prices”, said Malaysian Tony Fernandes.

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