Air link offers opportunities with booming Qatar

Qatar's profile has been at its highest since the country was awarded the 2022 World Cup.

Scotland's links with Qatar have been boosted by direct flights between Edinburgh and Doha. Picture: AP Photo/STR

While this attention has helped promote the Gulf state’s aim to diversify its economy and become a business hub, it has also highlighted its development and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Scotland’s own trading and travel relationship with Qatar was given a boost when direct flights between Edinburgh and Doha were launched in 2014. A recent visit to the country, prior to the two-year mark of the Qatar Airways service, gave some insight on what it offers to Scotland, especially as a business destination.

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Qatar is firstly a conservative and secular Islamic country. Figures from 2011 put Qataris as the world’s richest with a GDP of over $98,000 per person, more than twice as much as the US. This wealth is concentrated on Qatari citizens, who account for only around 250,000 of its more than two million population, who enjoy an estimated GDP of about $690,000 per person.

While there are efforts to build tourism infrastructure and a number of luxury hotels appearing on the Doha skyline, there is work to be done to make it a fully formed holiday destination. There are, however, many emerging business opportunities within the Gulf state.

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The business environment in Qatar is generally positive for new companies with a labour force consisting primarily of expatriate workers.

Qatar’s Emir, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, wants to improve infrastructure, health care and education, which offers opportunities for Scottish construction, architecture and engineering firms.

A relaxation of laws is attracting greater foreign investment in banking. Qatar’s oil and gas market, which accounts for 85 per cent of its export revenues and over 50 per cent of GDP, has also been opened up for greater foreign investment. These are both key sectors where Scotland has skills and expertise to offer.

There is a clear and ambitious vision of growth and diversity laid out in its National Vision 2030. Hosting the World Cup in six years will help keep the focus on these plans and its social development. Scotland’s direct air link will continue to provide a gateway for business opportunities in both directions and beyond.

• Andrew Newton is head of corporate travel at Colpitts World Travel