Qatar celebrates the car – with Geneva support

The Emirate of Qatar is small in terms of the area it occupies on the Arabian Peninsula. But size is no argument for the rulers of this oil- and gas-rich stretch of desert, and so the small state secures international event after international event and shows the world what money can buy. There is hardly a sport that has not already determined its champions here – with the highlight of the football World Cup last year.

And this year? In October, the world is going to the “Geneva International Motor Show” in Qatar (October 5 to 14), whereby the event, according to Berthold Trenkel, head of tourism in Qatar, does not see itself as a classic motor show, but as an “automobile festival to which we 200,000 visitors await”. At the same time, they should then get to know the tourist attractions of the emirate, because the motor show organized by the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS) is part of the emirate’s tourism promotion. “Tourism currently accounts for around seven percent of our gross domestic product. We want to increase this share to twelve percent by 2030,” says Trenkel, looking to the future at the presentation of the program in Doha.

Therefore, according to those responsible, the visitors should not only stop by the fair, but also experience the tourism offers of the country. For example, the Qatar Museum built by the French star architect Jean Nouvel, or the Auto Museum, which will be showing visitors to the trade fair a number of special automotive rarities before the official opening in two years’ time. Also worth a visit is the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum, which houses the Sheikh’s private collection. In addition to Islamic works of art, the fortress near Al Samriya also houses the museum’s founder’s extensive vintage car collection, which is well worth seeing. Of course, visitors should also get to know the emirate’s desert, where they can test drive four-wheel drive vehicles.

Three years ago, the Qatari officials contacted the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS). “At that time there were also talks with other Gulf States. In the end we chose Qatar,” explains the head of the Geneva Motor Show, Sandro Mesquita. The people of Geneva act as advisors, and the emirate has also acquired the naming rights to the Geneva event for ten years. “Qatar has not bought any shares in our company. That’s not even possible because we’re a foundation,” Mesquita counters the rumors about the “Qatar connection”. The organizers estimate that 40 to 50 brands will take part in the first Geneva Motor Show on the Arabian Gulf, including Chinese manufacturers who want to use this stage. Japanese and Korean brands currently dominate the streets of Qatar.

It is still unclear whether the manufacturers will be represented by their importers or dealers. In any case, the exhibition space in the Doha Exhibition and Convention Center is limited to 29,000 square meters. Although the trade fair is between the IAA in Munich and the Tokyo Motor Show, “we want to ensure that manufacturers who are not exhibiting in either Munich or Tokyo show their innovations here. Because Doha and the region have great potential. People are crazy about cars,” hopes Mesquita. In the medium term, according to the Geneva trade fair manager, “the event should establish itself and acquire such a reputation that new products will be shown here as a matter of course”.

The Geneva International Motorshow Qatar is entitled “The Ultimate Festival of Automotive Excellence”, which does not mean, however, that only customers for exclusive automobiles will get their money’s worth. For the term “excellence”, those responsible for the fair chose a very broad definition, ranging from Toyota to the luxury brands of this world. “It won’t be a show just for hypercars,” assures a spokesman for the fair in Doha.

The trade fair organizers are proud of the format, which uses several points around Doha. The all-wheel drive vehicles on display can be tested on a desert site south of the Qatari capital. The sporty models will be driven on the Grand Prix track, and on October 12th there will be a big car parade on the Corniche in Doha, where exhibitors and motorists from the region can show their treasures. In addition, Formula 1 will make a stop in Doha during the days of the fair.

Even if the Qatar visitor has doubts about it, sustainability is also an issue in Doha. This applies above all to the electrification of mobility and hydrogen, which is obtained from solar systems and could replace natural gas in the future. What the region can achieve in this area will be discussed in a congress during the fair.

While Qatar is preparing for the fair, plans are also underway for the Geneva Motor Show in its traditional habitat at Lac Leman. Although the traditional events have come under pressure worldwide, next year’s motor show is scheduled to take place again in Switzerland from February 26 to March 3 and take over elements of the Doha offshoot. Finally, the Salon celebrates its 100th anniversary as an international trade fair. Foreign exhibitors were not admitted until 1924.

“The contract with the exhibition company Palexpo has been signed and we are registering positive signs from the industry. However, they still have to be translated into firm commitments,” Mesquita says optimistically. In any case, the car will be the center of attention at Lake Geneva. “We know that other trade fairs are changing, but we’re sticking with the automobile,” promises the GIMS boss. (cen/Walther Wuttke)

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