The chief executive of Qatar Airways has indicated he would like to build a new five-star hotel in Canberra - but only if he gets a good deal on the land from the ACT government.
The airline's first flight into Canberra landed on Monday, and Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker - who is also chief executive of the Dhiafatina Hotel group and the Hamad International Airport - said he wanted to bring one of the top hotel brands to the nation's capital.
But Mr Al Baker said he was not prepared "to write a big cheque for that real estate".
"We see there is potential for more five-star room nights [but] we would need to be provided real estate that is appropriately priced, I would prefer it to be free over say a 99-year or 100-year lease," Mr Al Baker said.
"You know Canberra is not an ultra large city, but its a very beautiful place, I think Canberra has a lot of potential and if the state authorities give us recommendations we will possibly look at it because I think the capital city of this great nation deserves more options for people."
Mr Al Baker made the surprise comment during a joint press conference with Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Tuesday.
The airline has spared no expense in launching its service to Canberra, even commissioning a hot air balloon for the occasion.
Mr Barr, who appeared startled by the investment proposal, said the ACT's leasehold system would allow the government to release land for the purpose of the hotel "that would significantly reduce its price".
He said the idea showed a "very serious and long term commitment" to the Canberra market.
"I've been talking about the need for more five star hotels in Canberra for a number of years now," Mr Barr said.
"We have sites that are available and clearly there are also desirable sites held by the private sector. Our planning system allows for that kind of land release so clearly it's a competitive process and there are many parties interested in investing in new hotels in Canberra but this is a very practical example of the work my government has been undertaking in partnership with Canberra Airport and others in the tourism sector for many years now."
Qatar Airways now flies 35 times a week to Australia, with double daily flights to Sydney now thanks to the addition of the Canberra route.
But Mr Al Baker said it was the length of the runway, not the desire to get an extra flight into Sydney that necessitated the 70-minute technical stop.
"Unfortunately the runway is not long enough to fly here direct, though we may be able to land here direct, we will not be able to take off direct to go from Doha to here because when you are going for such an utter long haul flight, the aircraft is very heavy so it would need a minimum of 4300 metre long runway for us to be able to fly from here direct from any destination," Mr Al Baker said.
"We don't intend to land anywhere midway so this is the only alternative, we have to land in Sydney in order for us to be able to refuel for us to be able to go up to our hub in Doha."
Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron said the airport's masterplan allowed for another 600 metres to be added to the main runway.
However that would only take the runway to a length of 3883 metres.
Mr Byron said the runway length was "something we can address with our masterplan over time", but did not think the stop at Sydney would deter Canberrans from flying with Qatar Airways.
"I think any of us who've had to fly to Sydney on a domestic flight and transfer, been delayed, had to transfer terminals, been caught in the traffic and had very significantly long changeover times would recognise the opportunity to avoid all that," Mr Byron said.
"To be guaranteed to be on the same aircraft, on the same seat, to have your bags already on the plane and doing your baggage and customs in the elegant and efficient Canberra Airport is a substantial advantage over the alternative."
Mr Al Baker said Qatar would continue to lobby the Australian government for extra frequencies as part of the country's Air Services Agreement with Australia.