Qatar has been earmarked as a “hot-spot” for the facilities management industry by experts and stakeholders from within the industry; Agents4RM International managing director Lionel Prodgers shared similar sentiments in the Facilities Management Business Confidence Monitor 2016.

A few challenges, however, relating to visa regulations and staff sourcing exist in Qatar and Hotelier Qatar learnt about these when we spoke to FM companies in the country. Youssef Abillama, CEO of MMG, which is a sister company of EEG, says: “The main challenge and issue for us is in recruitment; at every level — from top executives to labourers. There is a quota which makes it difficult to secure visas for labourers, and the NOC rules mean that it is difficult to appoint someone at executive level from inside the country. In addition, as elsewhere in the region, there is a ban on Lebanese nationals getting visas, which is difficult for a Lebanese-based company like us.”

Al Doha Maintenance country manager Deepak Murthy adds: “The most evident challenges pertain to availability of skilled workforce, maintaining the cost effectiveness whilst providing high quality services and the ability to sustain beyond the rapid growth period. A majority of our resources are focused on regulating the industry.”

The bottom line for the success of the facilities management sector is based on a country’s scale of existing infrastructure, and Murthy feels that Qatar will be comparable to Dubai in a few years’ time. “Dubai has huge infrastructure projects such as the ports, metro, free zones etc. Meanwhile, Qatar would take another few years to reach there [with pipeline projects materialising]. These large scale projects bring in huge resources for the local market by the means of knowledge and capital, ultimately helping to regulate the industry. Qatar is in the process of realising these projects and would be at par with other tier-one cities in the next few years,” Murthy tells Hotelier Qatar.

Abillama says: “Qatar’s FM market is not as advanced as the UAE, but this means that there is massive potential for growth. It is an industry driven by major events and is, more than anywhere else, very connections based, so is not as open as some other FM markets in the Middle East.”

Hotels reported a slight drop in occupancy for the first half of 2016, but they have not cut back on FM companies’ services. Murthy explains: “FM forms an important aspect of hotels. Whether it is the economic slowdown or reduced occupancy rate, hotels cannot cut back the cost of maintaining the facilities, landscaping and housekeeping. These are services that can never be compromised in hotels as it significantly affects their business, and in the long run would have detrimental effects on the building structure and brand identity as well.”

The FIFA World Cup 2022 will bring with it the development of several new projects, not just in the way of sporting facilities, but projects such as the Doha Rail and other ancillary industries will also be developed. “The World Cup will, of course, spur a phenomenal increase in tourism and construction, and so it is likely that FM growth rates in Qatar will be higher than the Gulf average over the next few years,” Abillama says.

He adds: “As aforementioned, there needs to be more flexibility in the visa process to ensure that, where necessary, companies can bring in the right people to drive the success of the event, so that the Qatari economy will benefit wholly from the opportunities the World Cup will offer.”

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