The company recently adopted the name Katara. What is the meaning of the name?
Katara comes from the old name of Qatar. Catara was originally used by the ancient cartographers in 150 AD to refer to the area known today as the Qatar Peninsula, before European cartographers began using the spelling Katara on historical maps dating from the first half of the 18th Century. That is why we decided to rebrand our company in 2012 from Qatar National Hotels to a company with an international name that would reach the international market. In 2011, we were a more nationally orientated company; however, today 70% of our hotels are outside of Doha. Katara Hospitality's name has been tremendously successful in helping build our brand within Qatar, the region, and beyond. The rebranding has also made us look into the past and cherish our accomplishments, while inspiring us to continue to pursue excellence in our future journey.
Tourism is one of the pillars in the national strategy to diversify the economy. How do you aim to attract more Qatari graduates into the hospitality sector?
As Qatar's flagship hospitality organization, we are deeply committed to our role in developing the country's tourism sector. We align ourselves with the values and objectives of the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030, including the country's Qatarization policies. We have implemented training programs for promising Qatari high school graduates as well as setting up a sponsorship initiative at Stenden University to encourage young Qataris to enter the hospitality industry. The initiatives that we run with talented Qatari students are one part of a larger puzzle to develop a dynamic and efficient workforce for Qatar. Within our own organization, we encourage multi-discipline training, creating highly motivated and deeply skilled individuals who are given a platform to develop their talents both locally and internationally. Personally, I try to inspire people by demonstrating my career path and show them where you can go to in such a short period of time. I started working in kitchens and now I am leading this great organization. I hope this will entice people to come and work in junior positions. At Katara Hospitality the staff turnover is considerably low. That means that people are loyal, and we are loyal. Many companies find their turnover at 17%, while ours doesn't even exceed 3%. The majority of our employees have been working at Katara Hospitality for eight or nine years. It is easy to hire hundreds of employees, but how to select them and retain them is key.
How would you assess the national tourism strategy and efforts?
Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) sets the strategy, and we are their main hospitality partner. The national tourism strategy has to be developed through various delegations and committees who meet to work out the best national plan. QTA has so far implemented Phase I of this strategy, which has been successful so far but requires more time to be realized. There has been a tremendous effort in the development of new cities to attract tourism further. For example, in Lusail City, you will see that they are developing numerous entertainment cities and malls, 20 hotels, a public beach, and museums. Katara Hospitality and other hospitality groups in Qatar support QTA in achieving their goals, and I'm sure most of them will be achieved in five years' time.