''We have great plans for India''

India and Qatar signed a bilateral air services agreement April 14, 2005, to increase flights, lower fares and strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Qatar Airways, hailed as one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, has operations to 59 destinations across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian sub-continent and Asia.

The Doha-based airline has won many accolades and awards, and holds a prestigious five-star ranking by Skytrax (an independent aviation industry monitoring agency), which has also ranked it among the world's top 10 in-flight entertainment providers. Its cabin crew has been voted as the `Best in the Middle East' for the second time and one of the top five world-wide.

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar airways and chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority, is spearheading the development of Doha International Airport. Al Baker was in India recently, and told domain-b's Sajeev Nair about his airline's plans in India and the world.

Qatar Airways is a leading global carrier with operations to the sub-continent. How important is India to your airline's operations?
India is an important destination for Qatar Airways; we have operations to four destinations - Mumbai, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Hyderabad - at present. We have been planning for some time to add two more destinations in the near future, which we now expect will happen soon.

How do you plan to boost revenue from India?
Of course, this would depend on a lot of factors, ranging from government policies to passenger load factor and revenue. We are a rapidly growing company and expect a steady increase in our global revenues, but it is difficult to predict how much of this would be from India.

How is India placed as a tourist destination? Will we see more airlines operating into the country and, consequently, greater tourist traffic into the country?
India and China have a similar population and history. In fact, India has more national monuments and places of tourist interest. Yet it attracts less than 10 per cent of the number of tourists who visit China. In 2003, barely three million tourists came to India, while China got around 36 million visitors!