Qetaifan Projects is a real estate development company that was founded in October 2017. It is fully owned by Katara Hospitality, a leading global hotel owner, developer and operator based in Qatar. The foremost objective of Qetaifan Projects is to build cities of sustainable and intelligent infrastructure to support Qatar’s long-term economic vision. Qetaifan Projects’ first and main development is Qetaifan Island North, which is a distinct island featuring a state-of-the-art waterpark, luxurious hotels, unrivalled accommodation and world class facilities that make it a modern, globally-competitive community with a unique design inspired by the rich culture of the region. This thriving waterfront hub represents a thrilling new way of life. It aspires to develop into an internationally recognised landmark location and Qatar’s future iconic destination. Phase one of the project is planned for completion by November 2021.
Managing Director of Qetaifan Projects and one of the main ideological inspirations of Qetaifan Island North, H.E Sheikh Nasser bin Abdul Rahman Al-Thani, in an interview with Global Business Outlook, gives an insight into the company and its impressive development.
Q. Can you shed light on your work portfolio and specialisation?
I have been a member of the Board of Directors and Deputy Chairman of Katara Hospitality since September 2011. In 2017, I was appointed as the Managing Director of Qetaifan Projects. I have over 10 years of experience ranging across various sectors at executive management level including but not limited to real estate development, hospitality, investments specialising in mergers and acquisitions, Islamic finance and financial advisory. I was also involved in setting up several government founded companies including Aspire Katara Investments. I hold a bachelor’s degree in finance and economy from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I started my career in investment banking and then entered the real estate field.
In your view, how is Qetaifan Projects positioned in the market?
I see Qetaifan Projects as a challenger in the market. A real estate development company that had secured a very strong position in the market in a short time. It is also worth mentioning that we are a very lean team working on a huge project comprising only 25 employees. Our vision is to be one of the world’s leading real estate development companies. We are redefining real estate development through our commitment to good living, diversity, life-long experiences and sustainability
What was the pandemic’s impact on Qetaifan Projects and how were the challenges addressed at the time?
Of course, just like any other company, we have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Qetaifan Projects was proactive in developing a mitigation plan across all its divisions. The plan was implemented using various approaches:
▪ Due to impressive sales achieved in December 2019, we were in a position to deferthe land sales payments of those investors that were in financial crisis. The support offered by Qetaifan to investors is one example of its social responsibility
▪ During the pandemic, the majority of companies resorted to cost cutting through salary cuts and layoffs, but Qetaifan Projects believed that its most important asset is the team. Thus, promotions and bonuses were distributed normally and no cutting measures or salary reductions took place. Qetaifan Projects has also managed to retain all of its employees with no terminations. With that, the company achieved a cost saving of 30 percent through other channels.
▪ Qetaifan Projects has also managed to keep its employees engaged during the remote working period, by the following means:
o Keep employees active with challenging games and brain teasers were sent on weekly basis on WhatsApp
o Stay fit home challenge to achieve an ideal weight through diet and exercise
o Send daily positive quotes
o Development Initiative: Reading club and take up a hobby
o Self-Development: Continuing education and free online courses
▪ It is also worth mentioning that during the pandemic, Qetaifan Projects won the Best Place to Work in Qatar 2020 Award
▪ Corporate Social Responsibility was planned as part of managing the crisis:
o Direct Marketing: A bimonthly newsletter was created to highlight updates, spread positivity and build best practice during working from home
▪ Marketing Campaigns:
o Positive quotes
o Announcing the employees shifts showcasing H&S comes first
o Announcing winners during weekly HR activities
o Stay home, stay positive campaign, mind teasers, quiz and so on
o Market updates and articles
▪ Maintaining relationships with investors:
o During the first 3 months of the coronavirus outbreak, Qetaifan Projects signed 6 NDA’s with 1 school, 4 entertainment providers and 1 investment holding group.
o Due to the coronavirus outbreak and as part of risk management, the company took the decision to reshuffle its sales strategy in terms of timing and products. We also controlled our supply in times when everyone was dumping their products in the market. We sold the right product with the highest demand at the right time which enabled us to sell 100 percent of the products offered.
How did the idea of developing a massive Qetaifan Island North project come about?
The idea was stemmed based on a need for an internationally renowned entertainment landmark in Qatar that is to be inaugurated at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
What are the factors that played a role in the fact that this particular island has become a location for the development?
Qetaifan Island North, the first entertainment island in Qatar, is the closest to the Lusail stadium where the inauguration of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place. It will serve as a touristic destination and attract tourists or fans to the Water Park that will be operating during the world cup.
Qetaifan Island North is an ambitious development featuring different elements. How would you briefly describe it to those who hear about it for the first time?
Qetaifan Island North is the first family-oriented master-planned community entertainment island in Qatar where the concept of live and play is intertwined. The entertainment aspect is reflected around the island through the waterpark, linear park and 6 beaches backed by hospitality comprising a beachfront hotel operated by Rixos and a leisure component resembling the beach club. As for the live concept, the residents have 360 waterfront views and are surrounded by necessary amenities such as k-12 school, medical center, mosque, and various retail outlets.
The project’s description says that its design is inspired by the rich culture and nature of Qatar. What are the elements that will allow visitors to experience this?
The water park themed rides are inspired by the discovery of oil and gas in Qatar. One of the main attractions is the iconic island inspired by the oil rig featuring the tallest water slide that is 80 metres high.
Can you elaborate on the uniqueness of the development for Qatar in terms of energy efficiency and environmental protection?
Qetaifan Island North is GSAS certified, with a walkable island. During construction, it took into account the effect of the development on marine life. Also some of the sustainability grades being addressed as a result of the development are:
Poverty: Qetaifan Island North will provide new employment opportunities for migrant workers from less developed countries as a result of the facilities such as hospitality, retail, park and food and beverage that will be created.
Good Health and well-being: Qetaifan Island North aims to cater for a healthy community because we are providing a second-to-none medical centre facility, a state-of-the-art linear park, beaches and open areas for the island and external clients or visitors to exercise, which in turn would lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Quality Education: Qetaifan Island North aims to have one of the industry leaders offering quality educational services through the school. We are currently in discussion with the best international school in the Middle East which has a local presence to operate the Qetaifan Island North school. In addition, the waterpark offers an educational theme through the edutainment facilities. It also aims to educate visitors about Qatar’s history in the hydrocarbon industry and the process of discovering and extracting oil and gas through entertainment products.
Affordable and Clean Energy: GSAS mandates a minimum performance for the building’s energy systems in their rating system. The GSAS minimum performance is more stringent than the ASHRAE 90.1, thus ensuring that asset energy efficiencies are better than current standards.
Decent Work and Economic Growth: Qetaifan Island North development will open opportunities for local and international investors in the assets of the island. In addition, Qetaifan Island North is designed to be a tourist destination. In our efforts to support the tourism industry in Qatar, Qetaifan Projects has signed 17 MoUs with international tour operators and brought a new flagship to Qatar. With that, Rixos Hotels will be operating the waterpark, hotel, beach club and retail area. These partnerships will pave the way for long-term collaboration through the sharing of knowledge and expertise in relation to tourism planning and development, as well as promoting safe, honorable and sustainable tourism.
Sustainable Cities and Communities: The Linear Park which runs across the development serves as a green and public space, and is designed to be safe, inclusive and accessible.
Climate Action: By targeting the GSAS rating system, the development and its assets ensure that the carbon footprint is reduced below the business-as-usual.
Life on Land: Qetaifan Island North development being a reclaimed land will provide an opportunity for mangrove establishment and botanical garden education. In addition to the above, it is worth noting that Qetaifan Projects is sponsoring the Lean Construction Institute in Qatar and it is currently at the early stages of implementing lean construction methods and ways which can enhance sustainability by reducing waste and maximising value.
2022 is going to be a highlight year for Qatar with the country hosting the FIFA World Cup, which is the largest international event in the region’s history. What is the role played by Qetaifan Island North in ensuring to provide proper accommodation for tourists and fans?
We will provide permanent as well as temporary accommodation during the World Cup. In terms of permanent accommodation, the Luxury Beach Resort hotel is designed with 350 keys and chalets operated by Rixos International, for the first time in Qatar. Temporary accommodation will be provided in floating hotels and fan villages with a capacity to house 5,000 residents.
Qetaifan Island North is directly linked to Qatar’s future and Qatar National Vision 2030. Could you elaborate on how the company is in line with this plan?
One of the main economic contributors in Qatar National Vision 2030 is the tourism industry. Qatar Island North is positioned to be a local and regional destination contributing to the economy during and after the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Qetaifan Island North has won The Global Business Outlook Award in the category of The Best Real Estate Development Company in Qatar. How do you feel about this success?
The year 2020 has witnessed many challenges that may appear to be an obstacle, but we at Qetaifan Projects have succeeded in overcoming that obstacle and turned challenges into opportunities. I believe our efforts have paid off by obtaining this award. Qetaifan Projects looks for more than just a development. The company offers a win-win situation to all its stakeholders, establishing trust and transparency. From the project viewpoint, Qetaifan Island North is a well thought of project that would serve the nation and fulfil the needs of the end-user beyond 2022. It is a development that has intertwined the luxury with entertainment, striking a good balance between living and playing. This project has faced all possible foreseen and unforeseen challenges from tight deadlines, resources and budget, topped with blockade and the coronavirus pandemic. It is a well-deserved victory and we are happy to be recognised by Global Business Outlook.
In this context, how do you see the future of Qetaifan Projects and Qetaifan Island North?
Our vision for Qetaifan Projects is to become one of the world’s leading real estate development companies. I see Qetaifan Island North as a renowned local and regional destination that contributes to the nation’s economy.