As Qatar prepares to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, more than $200 million is being spent on infrastructure projects across the country. The construction boom is partially in anticipation of the international sporting event, but also in line with the country’s Vision 2030 development plan to diversify its economy. Exports of petroleum and liquefied natural gas account for 70 percent of government revenues and 60 percent of gross domestic product. The sharp fall in oil prices in 2015 — to a 12-year low — affected the country greatly, with GDP per capita contracting by 14.6 percent in 2015. But Qatar remains resilient. With its continued economic diversification away from oil and a focus on tourism, GDP growth between 2016 and 2020 is expected to be 5.2 percent, according to BMI Research.
The country’s retail structure is benefiting, as well, as consumer confidence remains high. In its annual country risk report, BMI asserts: “We project household spending to grow by 6.8 percent in 2016, accelerating by 8.2 percent in 2017. The opening of four major shopping centers will attract greater spending from Qataris and wealthy expats, as Doha begins to rival Dubai for regional dominance in retail supply and infrastructure.”
Doha, the country’s capital, is witnessing a transformation of its retail sector with around 1.2 million square meters gross leasable area expected to be available over the next three years alone as the country ramps up its modernization.
Doha Festival City, due to open late this year, is also set to become the largest mall in the country, featuring around 550 retail shops, including the country’s first Harvey Nichols department store and more than 100 food and beverage outlets. The mixed-used scheme will combine retail with leisure, dining, entertainment and hospitality. The mall will include Doha’s first snow park, the region’s first Angry Birds indoor/outdoor theme park as well as a theme park dedicated to the rapidly growing “gaming” community.
The most talked about infrastructure development is happening just north of the capital, where an entirely new city spanning 38 square kilometers, called Lusail, has been meticulously master-planned. The seaside mini metropolis will be the focal point of the World Cup, hosting the main stadium for opening and closing ceremonies as well as the influx of tourists and spectators expected, with more than 22 hotels under construction.
It will also be home to a new mall, Place Vendôme. Reminiscent of the famous high-end shopping street in Paris, Rue de la Paix, the project stands out from others in the region with its European-inspired architecture. The $1.25 billion mixed-use development set to be completed in early 2018 will offer 1 million square meters of retail and entertainment space, including a canal running through it directly from the sea and an open plaza with cafés and restaurants overlooking the water.
The mall will be fully operational far ahead of the World Cup. Sean Kelly, project director of Place Vendôme, said the event was not the main driver for developing the mall.
“The World Cup is the milestone, but it’s not the finish. It will mark the beginning of Lusail being the place to be in Qatar.” Lusail is expected to have 450,000 residents and visitors. It will be made up of 19 distinct residential, commercial, mixed-use and entertainment districts in addition to two golf courses, luxury hotels and four exclusive islands. “Of course, the World Cup is fantastic for us. The legacy that it will leave behind, like the amazing infrastructure, from the bridges to metro to water taxi stations, cannot be rivaled.”