QTA representatives receiving the Qatar’s World’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination award at the WTA 2013 yesterday. INSET: WTA president Graham E Cooke addressing the gathering. Qatar clinched the award, among other top contenders comprising Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Beijing, Dubai, Durban, London, Melbourne, New Orleans, Rio de Janerio, Seoul, Tokyo and Vancouver. Qatar was recognised as the World’s Leading Sports Tourism Destination at a grand final ceremony of the World Travel Awards (WTA) 2013 held at Doha’s La Cigale Hotel yesterday. Qatar clinched the award among other top contenders comprising Abu Dhabi, Auckland, Beijing, Dubai, Durban, London, Melbourne, New Orleans, Rio de Janerio, Seoul, Tokyo and Vancouver. The award was received by three representatives of the Qatar Tourism Authority. Described as the “Oscars of the Travel Industry”, WTA is marking its 20th anniversary this year and the Doha ceremony completed the “World Grand Tour” which has seen awards presented across five continents. Qatar Museums Authority chairperson HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad al-Thani and Sheikh Jassim bin Abdulaziz al-Thani were guests of honour at the event. WTA was established in 1993 to “recognise, acknowledge and reward” leading travel, tourism and hospitality organisations in the world. In all, over 1,500 nominees in 173 categories competed for an award at the ceremony which was attended by crème de la crème of the travel, hotels, airlines and hospitality industry. While most of the awards for the region went to the UAE, a number of organisations and hotels in Qatar proved their mettle by winning some of the honours. The La Cigale Hotel won two awards, World’s Leading Hotel Dining and Entertainment Experience and World’s Excellence in Service, and St Regis Hotel World’s Leading Business Hotel. While the World’s Leading Travel Agency awards went to the Regency Travels and Tours, the Katara Hospitality won the World’s Leading Hospitality Company. The Royal Villa at the Sharq Village and Spa was given the World’s Leading Villa award. The W-Doha Hotel and Residences bagged the World’s Leading Hotel Residences. Speaking at the ceremony, WTA president and founder Graham E Cooke said the awards’ grand final ceremony was the culmination of the year-long tourism and hospitality brands, companies and organisations worldwide, across six continents and involving more than 9,000 nominees. “To hold our grand final of 2013, alongside our 20th anniversary year, has indeed been an honour for WTA. We have long regarded the Middle East as a hub for cutting-edge sophistication, luxury and innovation in the world tourism landscape and the grand final could not have been held in a more dynamic and important city.” He acknowledged that Qatar is an “undisputed leader and innovator in the global economic landscape”, saying: “Following the announcement that Qatar would become the first in the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022, a four-decade long process of development was given fresh impetus.” He said: “Infrastructure is being developed, stadiums planned, hotels designed, airports built and ports created, in what is now one of the most forward-looking communities on earth. Doha combines a rich tapestry of culture and history, with outstanding service and myriad culinary styles, which have contributed to it becoming one of the world’s top destinations in the Middle East.” Cooke thanked Sheikha al-Mayassa for her presence on the occasion and congratulated her for having a strong passion in art preservation and restoration. He also thanked La Cigale for hosting the event alongside the Qatar National Bank as event partner and Doha Insurance Company as main sponsor. Highlights of the event, compered by Turkish broadcaster Ece Vahapoglu, included a celebrity performance by Lebanese artiste Maya Diab, Syrian folkloric show by Enana and an electrifying fusion performance by solo violinist Micah.