The award-winning Qetaifan Island North (QIN) project is an innovative entertainment destination comprising a state-of-the-art waterpark and luxurious hotels, as well as a residential community, on an island off Lusail City in Doha, Qatar.
Much of the construction is complete, and elements will begin a phased opening from September, beginning with the luxury Beach Club. The entertainment landmark will then be fully inaugurated at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
QIN is the first offering by Qetaifan Projects, a subsidiary of Katara Hospitality. It was established in 2017 to support Qatar’s economic vision by building sustainable, intelligent cities.
In addition to being an iconic tourist, hospitality and entertainment destination for Qatar, the island will accommodate fans flocking to the 2022 World Cup in a blend of temporary and permanent accommodation.
Family entertainment at the heart of Qetaifan Island North
Hesham Sharaf was appointed as the Chief Operating Officer of Qetaifan Projects in 2017, to oversee the company’s daily operations and the development management of Qetaifan Island, drawing on a background in investment banking, management consultancy and real estate development.
“We’re working hard to please everyone,” he explains, charting the evolution of the concept. “The initial idea by the country’s senior management was that we needed a waterpark. The concept grew around the idea of family entertainment, starting in 2013.”
“In 2015 they started to look for a site for the project, still based on a waterpark and a theme park for family entertainment, at that point. From 2015-2017, the concept evolved into something more than an entertainment island: a 360-degree city, complete with schools, medical centres, with family entertainment at its heart.”
An international city
In Qatar, family entertainment is limited:
“If you have kids and want to go out, where do you go? There is the mall or the beach: nothing else. There is a need for something more,” says Sharaf.
Qetaifan Island North is the response to this need: a family-oriented, master-planned entertainment island with a unique range of residential offerings, such as a school, medical centre and mosques, as well as retail outlets.
The entertainment centres around the ground-breaking waterpark that is themed to unite the region’s past with its future. There is also Linear Park, six beaches, a Beach Club, and a beach hotel operated by Rixos.
“The island’s culture is cosmopolitan, rather than being rooted in any particular nationality or ethnicity. It encompasses everything; it’s an international city; it’s for tourists, it’s for ex-pats, and it’s also for locals.”
The heritage of Qatar
The 137,000 sq m waterpark, featuring 36 slides, including the highest water slide in the world located on the Icon Tower, is designed around the narrative of the oil industry:
“The whole idea was to reference the wealth, history and heritage of Qatar, rather than just building a theme park. The design goes into every tiny detail,” says Sharaf.
Award-winning experiential design and production practice Sarner International created the immersive edutainment ride with consultation from the science and museum sectors:
“Although we had sat with them at the very beginning to outline the original idea to them, when we saw the presentation and what they had created, it was clear it was going to be very special.”
The ride, which tells the story of Doha’s evolution over the course of a century, uses 3D mapping, animatronics, projection, theatrical lighting, heat and vibration, as well as drilling machines and fog screens to chart the story of oil from the Jurassic Era to the future.
The region is diversifying away from oil towards tourism and leisure and the waterpark encapsulates that shift, acknowledging and paying tribute to the past while moving onto the future.
Sustainability at Qetaifan Island North
Acknowledging the oil industry brings conservation and sustainability into the picture. In terms of energy efficiency and environmental protection, Qetaifan Island North is Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS certified). Construction has taken the effect of the development on marine life into account at every step.
“We have green, sustainable buildings, open spaces, and the island is walkable,” Sharaf says. “But we’re also very mindful of economic sustainability.
“There is over-supply, undeniably, in Qatar when it comes to hospitality; when it comes to office space; when it comes to retail. But that doesn’t have to be negative. On the contrary, it increases the challenge from the perspective of the developers. They start to compete, and that, ultimately, is to the benefit of the end-user.
“If there is a limited supply, the end-user has to settle for what is available. But now s/he gets to choose.”
“What we are offering today is economically sustainable. Because for all amenities, for all services, we have taken the best interest of the end-user, and have kept that in mind when we were working on the actual components. What would a local, a tourist, an ex-pat, require? What would s/he need? Every single element within the project has been studied.
“Years from now, I think people will enjoy visiting the island over and over. People will also enjoy living there, even if they have other choices. It is going to be a very favourable location, and is economically sustainable in terms of tourism.”
Qetaifan Island North and the FIFA World Cup 2022
Qetaifan Island North’s location makes it the ideal site for a fan village for FIFA World Cup 2022:
Close to the Lusail Stadium where the inauguration of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place, QIN will cater to all fans’ needs in terms of entertainment and attractions from the waterpark, the beachfront and beaches, the Linear Park, retail outlets and F&B, and accommodation, with luxury tents and 16 floating hotels in addition to the luxurious hotel.
Tourists and fans will also be able to use water taxis for transportation from Qetaifan Island North, to avoid crowds and traffic, to Lusail Stadium.
“The fan village caters for about 5000 visitors for entertainment. The provision includes innovative, modern tents, with electricity, bathrooms and the capacity to watch some of the games; most visitors will choose to watch a select number in the stadium, and the rest from their accommodation.
“The floating hotels we are offering as a temporary solution during the World Cup will accommodate around 1000 visitors. They will only be there for a month beforehand, and maybe three months after.
“There is also, of course, our hotel, which will also be catering for the World Cup visitors. As an island, we’re catering to roughly 7,000 visitors for the World Cup, using permanent and temporary accommodation. We intend to use a similar approach for the Olympics, later on.”
A fast-moving project
The Qetaifan Island North project has moved fast since its initial inception.
Outlining the timeline, Sharaf says: “The company was launched at the beginning of 2018. We started working on the design right away. There was a meticulous tendering process, which took most of that year, and into 2019.
“But we were doing everything in parallel, so the design was started in 2018; the approach was to establish consultancy and tenders for the waterpark. We had a very detailed program, comprising about 6 different contracting packages.”
“Our first, which will be launching in September, is our Beach Club. The main idea of our Beach Club is to create traffic to the island, and awareness of the island. The Beach Club’s design, interior and exterior, is very comparable to the hotel.”
The family-friendly, luxury Beach Club is a highlight of the waterfront, a white sand beach, infinity pool, restaurant, cabanas, spa, gym, and a kids’ area. The Island’s Sales Centre and Qetaifan Projects offices will also be located in the building.
Nearing completion despite COVID-19
“We intend to finalise construction of all the assets at Qetaifan Island North by the end of this year: Beach Club, waterpark, hotels, retail plaza, Linear Park. Everything will be finalised by end of this year. The operation of these elements will be by May or June 2022, which is when we launch.”
The construction has continued through the lockdowns of the pandemic. Explaining how they contrived to achieve this, Sharaf says:
“Since the launch of the company in 2018, our strategy from day one has been very efficient; lean; cost-effective on every level, allocating client and device management from every department, and every unit within the company; working out every single thing from technical to commercial, to operations, to marketing, to sales.”
“From the beginning, we were ready, and I’m actually very proud to say that we continued to work throughout. We were not delayed in the construction, and we were not impacted negatively; we did not let go of any of our employees, and everyone involved performed well.
“People continued to work. We didn’t make any salary cuts or cut incentives. They were working from home, solo working, and we also kept in touch with calls, and developed strategies to keep their spirits up.
“Morale remained high, and we performed really well on every level, even commercially, in terms of sales; our prices did not go down, but up. We achieved sales of 1.1 billion, last December, during coronavirus.”
The first phase of the Qetaifan Island North development comprises the waterpark and four-star hotel. Phase two encompasses Linear Park, and the mixed-use residential complex, retail plaza, souq and staff accommodation.
The island’s residential offering also includes exclusive property with communal areas and features villas in a landscaped environment with boardwalks, pools and spas. The development is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.
“We also supported our investors, deferring payments for six months where they were facing some financial difficulties, without penalties. We offered them that opportunity. The company as a whole managed to ride the wave of the pandemic, and we got through very safely, with no negative impact whatsoever, neither commercial nor technically.
“From the beginning, we have negotiated challenges from tight deadline, resources & budget, to the COVID-19 pandemic. And we have come through. 2020 was hard. It was a challenging year. But for us, it was actually great.”
A human-centric approach
The secret, he explains, lies in putting simple human-centric strategies in place from the start, and also in proper training. Shaping the organisational structure around the workforce engenders efficiency and wellbeing:
“There are so many companies that have slogans like ‘our human capital is our main asset’ without actually caring about people at all. But ours really does value people.”
“Our team works so hard, and we appreciate them. Our internal slogan is, ‘One Team, One Family.’ From the MD to the office boy, we all attend events together. We had a field trip to the waterpark at Qetaifan Island North a couple of days ago, on a minibus; again, the MD, senior, junior and middle management, the office boy, everyone.
The company has won several prestigious awards, including Luxury Lifestyle Awards in the category of The Best Luxury Real Estate in Doha, Qatar; and Best Real Estate Development Company in Qatar 2020 from the Global Business Outlook.
“The award I am particularly proud of is the ‘Best Place to Work in Doha’ Award,” concludes Sharaf.