After infamously banning the sale of alcohol on its Pearl-Qatar development two years ago, the Gulf state has been at it again this week, announcing that it would prohibit booze consumption in the swimming pool and beach areas of several swanky hotels.
As a sovereign (and Muslim) country, Qatar is free to make its own rules on alcohol, but the inconsistency over regulations will not help its tourism ambitions.
The suddenness of the 2011 decision at Pearl-Qatar contributed to the closure of several restaurants (including UK chef Gordon Ramsay’s Maze) and Qatari officials are yet to reveal the motivation behind the new ban.
Considering its position as host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, which analysts estimate could draw more than 400,000 visitors to the country, Qatar must be more coherent and transparent in its tourism strategy.
As it stands, the country’s tourism sector is far from thriving. According to the latest official data, average hotel occupancy in Qatar stands at just 57 percent, despite a limited inventory of little over 13,000 rooms.
Qatar must decide: does it want to emulate Dubai as a cosmopolitan destination which can accommodate visitors from a variety of faiths and beliefs, or does it want to be Saudi Arabia?