During the last three decades, the United States of America maintained strong relations with the Gulf States, mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The mutual interest between Western countries, primarily the United States and Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported their economies to flourish, being the strongest in the region. Besides, the tremendous cooperation between the Gulf States under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) placed the region on the international trade and political map, being an important corridor for the exchange of commodities, mainly hydrocarbon production between the West and the East. However, GCC countries started diversifying their economic portfolio, starting 2015 following the steep decline in energy prices. Looking at Qatar, in 2014, the distribution of the Gross Domestic Product (hereinafter mentioned as GDP) across economic sectors was mainly concentrated on hydrocarbon production, where the contribution of the industry to GDP reached around 70%. In 2017, the contribution of the hydrocarbon sector in the Qatari economy eased to reach approximately 57%, and the services sector contribution boosted to reach around 43% of the economy. The boost in the services sector was mainly attributed to the notable performance of tourism. However, the recent deterioration in political relations between some GCC states and Qatar has caused a significant drop in tourist arrivals to Qatar. According to the Annual Tourism Performance Report published in 2015 by the Qatar National Tourism Authority (hereinafter mentioned as QNTC) (2015) total international tourist arrivals to Qatar reached 2.92 million, of which 1.3 million (equivalent to 44.4% of total international tourist arrivals) arriving from GCC countries, and 0.27 million (equal to 9.4% of total international tourist arrivals) coming from other Arab countries. In 2018, as published by the same report (2018), those numbers respectively fell by 73% and 22% compared to 2017 due to the blockade on Qatar and geopolitical tensions in the region.
Starting from here, this study aims to analyze the effect of the blockade on tourists’ perception of visiting Qatar. A mixed-methods approach will be used to collect qualitative and quantitative data to achieve the aim of this study. A questionnaire was distributed to 250 respondents, only 177 responses were collected. In addition, two interviews were conducted with two senior officers in the tourism industry. The study revealed that the blockade and the geopolitical tensions surrounding Qatar had a negative impact on tourist arrivals to Qatar especially from the Arab world. However, tourist’s perception from visiting Qatar is positive, yet tourists are exercising precautions to guarantee their safety and security. The tourism industry is highly dependent on the stability of the hosting country. Accordingly, concerned authorities should exercise limitless efforts to ensure the prosperity of the sector.
Table of Contents
- Introduction. 5
1.1. Problem Description. 6
1.2. Problem Statement 7
1.3. Research Objectives 7
1.4. Research Questions 7
2. Literature Review.. 8
2.1. Introduction. 8
2.2. The Political Situation in The Middle East 8
2.3. The Political Situation in Qatar 13
2.4. The Effect of the Economy on Tourism.. 15
2.5. The Impact of Geopolitical Tensions on Tourism.. 16
3. Conceptual Framework. 18
4. Methodology. 18
4.1. Research Design. 19
4.2. Data Collection. 19
4.3. Sampling Method. 20
4.4. Validity and Reliability. 20
5. Results and Analysis 21
5.1. The Extent Tourism Contributes in the Development of the Qatari Economy. 21
5.2. The Extent the Blockade and the Surrounding Geopolitical Tensions Affected the Tourists’ Perception about Visiting Qatar 26
5.3. The Effect of decrease in tourism on the Economy and Society in Qatar 30
6. Conclusion. 35
7. Recommendations 36
8. References 39
Table of Figures
Figure 1 – Answers to Question 1: “Qatar is diversifying its economic portfolio by supporting the services industry in general and specifically tourism” 21
Figure 2 – Answers to Question 2: “Tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy” 22
Figure 3 – Answers to Question 3: How tourism is contributing to the development of the Qatari economy 23
Figure 4 – Answers to Question 4: “International tourism flows are mainly impacted by” 26
Figure 5 – Answers to Question 6: ” Would you recommend traveling to Qatar despite of the current geopolitical tensions in the country and its surrounding neighbors?” 27
Figure 6 – Answers to Question 8: how the decrease in tourists’ arrivals affected the Qatari economy 30
Figure 7 – Answers to Question 9: how the decrease in tourists’ arrivals affect the Society in Qatar 31
Figure 7 – Answers to Question 10: Would you recommend traveling to Qatar despite of the current geopolitical tensions in the country and its surrounding neighbors: 32
Tourism is a major component of the global economic scheme. In 2019, the total contribution of travel and tourism to global GDP reached around USD 8.8 trillion, which is equivalent to 10.4% of global GDP (WTTC, Travel & Tourism Economic Impact 2019 – World, 2019). Besides, the sector supported 319 million jobs in 2018, which represents around 1/10 of all global jobs (WTTC, 2019). Looking at Qatar, The travel and tourism sector supported 194,400 jobs and generated around USD 17.7 billion in Qatari GDP in 2018 (WTTC, 2019). According to the latter report, international tourism receipts in Qatar reached around USD 13 Billion, which represented 13% of total exports.
However, similar to all industries, the tourism sector operates within a vulnerable geopolitical and economic environment (Webster & Ivanov, 2015). As cited by the latter, most researchers studying tourism tend to focus on the impact of emerging geopolitical and economic risks either within or surrounding the country’s interest. On the same front, Yeoman (2012) mentioned that geopolitical and economic trends have a massive impact on tourism flows. For example, the ISIS attacks in France and Brussels have negatively impacted tourists’ arrivals significantly between 2015 and 2018. Neumayer (2004) stated that traveling history is strongly associated with risks and fear from war, conflicts, terrorism threats, riots, political violence, and economic downturns.
Moreover, the latter argued that tourists are not willing to travel to a foreign destination if their journey is not shielded from unjoyful events. Therefore, tourists may avoid those destinations and choose alternative ones comprising similar activities, yet with more suitable conditions (Neumayer, 2004). Balli, Uddin, and Shahzad (2019), if tensions were associated with prolonged violence, either internal or external travel advice will be issued against those destinations, banning their citizens from traveling. For instance, if the United States issues a travel advisory on a certain destination, the European Union will follow and other similar allies. Accordingly, tour operators will also cut their trips to those destinations due to lack of bookings, lawsuits, and blocked funds, causing tourism receipts to drop significantly.
Neumayer (2004) suggested that geopolitical tensions have a significant impact on tourism. Also, Balli, Uddin, and Shahzad (2019) conducted the same study to investigate the effects of geopolitical tensions on tourism flow in emerging and developing economies.
Considering the case of Qatar, the country heavily invested in creating a proper destination image for the country, by constructing state of the art attractions, hosting international events, and focusing on diversifying the economy. However, several unpleasant situations have hampered growth in Qatar. Therefore, this paper will investigate whether the boycott on Qatar and the surrounding geopolitical tensions in the Middle East region have affected tourists’ perception of visiting Qatar. This study will analyze scholarly articles discussing the issue by conducting an in-depth literature review on the middle east political situation and investigate similar cases worldwide.
1.1. Problem Description
During the past decade, Qatar started diversifying its economic portfolio to reduce its reliance on energy commodity’s revenues. Their new strategy started to materialize, starting in 2014. According to the data extracted from statista (2018) travel and tourism contribute to Qatari GDP by 10.6%, increasing by two folds in less than ten years. Qatar worked extensively on building its destination image to promote Doha as a hub for international tourism by hosting international events like the FIFA World Cup 2022, art attractions, and focusing on growing their interaction with neighboring countries. However, the contribution of travel and tourism to Qatari GDP started to decrease in 2017, to reach 10.1%, then declined to 9.4% in 2018. This drop in performance is mainly attributed to the blockade imposed by some GCC states and Egypt, the elevated geopolitical tensions in the Middle East region, and finally, the global economic slowdown that started during the second half of 2018. This study will explore if the previously mentioned reasons are the main issues related to the drop in tourist arrivals and will suggest necessary recommendations to boost tourism in Qatar to increase the contribution of travel and tourism to the economy.
1.2. Problem Statement
“To what extent did the blockade and the surrounding geopolitical tensions affect tourists’ perception of visiting Qatar?”
1.3. Research Objectives
Based on what was discussed in the previous sections, the following research objectives are defined:
- To explore the situation in the Middle East region to be able to assess the influence of the USA on the current political and economic situation in Qatar
- To assess the impact of geopolitical tensions on tourism
- To determine the impact of the boycott on tourists’ perception of visiting Qatar
- To evaluate the current trends and potential development of the situation for Qatar
1.4. Research Questions
Based on the aim of the study and the analyzed literature, the following research questions were developed:
- To what extent does tourism contribute in the development of the Qatari Economy?
- To what extent does the blockade and the surrounding geopolitical tensions affect the tourists’ perception about visiting Qatar?
- How did this affect the economy and society in Qatar?
2. Literature Review
Economic prospects of a specific country are usually impacted by external and internal factors, which include political relations, economic policies, the stability of financial markets, and healthy productive rates on both domestic and international markets. Nevertheless, sometimes unexpected events may disrupt production, deteriorating financial markets’ performance, and cause an economic slowdown. Looking at the case of Qatar, the country managed to overcome a multitude of unpleasant events that have impacted the Middle East region since the 1970s. Being almost entirely dependent on hydrocarbon productions, the economy of most Middle Eastern countries, including Qatar, is profoundly affected by the fluctuation in energy prices. Whenever oil prices increase, government revenues increase and vis versa.
However, this has changed since 2014, especially in Qatar, where the services sector started to gain traction raising its level of contribution to GDP to around 40%, and in 2017 reached around 47% (statista, 2018), where the most significant chunk is attributed to travel and tourism. Unfortunately, the sector was negatively impacted by the blockade imposed on Qatar starting in 2017, causing its revenues to decline sharply.
Starting from the previously mentioned issues, the literature review will analyze articles comprising the trends in the political situation in the Middle East region and will assess the influence of the USA on the current political and economic situation in Qatar. Besides, this paper will analyze scholarly input discussing the impact of geopolitical tensions on tourism, and their consequences on the overall economy and society.
2.2. The Political Situation in The Middle East
The history of the US Middle East policy reveals its limited potential regarding the establishment of democratic institutions in the Persian Gulf. The USA has repeatedly demonstrated its interest in protecting Western interests after the British withdrawal in 1970. The Persian Gulf is strategically essential for several reasons. About 62% of the world’s oil deposits and 30% of the world’s natural gas reserves are located in the Persian Gulf (Kamrava, 2011). The international economy is heavily dependent on the export of oil from the Persian Gulf, which roughly constitutes the everyday passage of 17 million barrels through the checkpoint in the Strait of Hormuz (Kamrava, 2011).
Meanwhile, the region presents a complex balance of power, whereas several states, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, seek to assert their regional domination (Kamrava, 2011). The overall concern regarding a probable disruption of oil export and possible instability explains the immense interest of the world powers in preventing the collapse of the regional security system due to the assertive policy of individual states. Thus, the combination of oil dependency and a threat of instability is the driving force behind the US involvement in regional affairs.
However, the US diplomatic and military activities in the Persian Gulf do not illustrate the linear growth of American presence in the region. In contrast, the USA has tended to react sporadically to the arising challenges to its interests in the region. The United States has frequently resorted to a confrontation with the Persian Gulf countries on numerous occasions, including the rescue operation in Lebanon, the Gulf War, and the military invasion in Iraq (Yetiv, 2008). The soft power did not constitute the primary option for American leadership due to the contemporary trends in world politics. Thus, Yetiv (2008)argues that the political realities of the Cold War necessitated the aggressive retaliation that would counter the hegemonic ambitions of the USSR.
Similarly, the collapse of the Soviet Union rendered the USA a single remaining superpower that could address the pressing issue of international terrorism by sponsoring the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Yetiv, 2008). This attack appeared to be the culmination of the US hegemonic aspirations since the subsequent years were marked by the withdrawal of American forces from the region. The failure to sustain liberal reforms in post-war Iraq turned the promising democratization project into a financial liability for the USA, which led to the decline of the American presence in the region (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). The unsuccessful attempt at forming a democratic state in the predominantly Muslim region indicates the USA’s overall lack of experience in state-building as well as the inability to cover the financial and human costs of such an enterprise by one state regardless of its economic and military potential.
The declining presence of the US undermines its capability to project the Western influence in the Persian Gulf. Thus, the US withdrawal from Iraq signifies the gradual disengagement from the regional politics in the eyes of regional powers. According to Legrenzi and Gause III (2016), the countries of the Persian Gulf hoped to strengthen their positions in the region by replacing the US in its role as a security supervisor. The long-term rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has led to the growing tensions in the region, especially after the Arab turmoil that stimulated the formation of new alliances with Saudi Arabia and Iran as the central powers (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). The conflict of opinions regarding the Syrian civil war demonstrates the diplomatic weakness of the USA and the growing participation of regional players in various disputes.
While the Obama Administration hesitated to sanction a military intervention and provide weapons for the opposition to the Assad regime, Saudi Arabia and Qatar compelled the Gulf Cooperation Council to provide ammunition for the Free Syrian Army and other insurgents (Ayoob, 2014). Meanwhile, Iran vigorously supports the Assad regime in Syria as a demonstration of loyalty to the long-term partnership that helped Iran to survive eight years of war with Iraq (Ayoob, 2014). The presented observations illustrate the growing engagement of regional powers in shaping the political trends of the Persian Gulf. Consequently, this tendency indicates the rising challenge to the US interests in the Middle East. Furthermore, the increasing deterioration of the US-Saudi and US-Iranian relations impose additional constraints on the US involvement in regional affairs. During the last decades, the USA has heavily relied on the close relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia in order to protect the Western interests in the Persian Gulf according to the so-called “two pillars” strategy (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). Thus, the United States was persistent in building a strong support base for the projection of its power in the region.
The situation changed after the US-led invasion in Iraq. While Saudi Arabia permitted the United States to use its military facilities during the 1990s and 2000s, the presence of foreigners stirred domestic opposition to the Saudi-American military cooperation (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). Thus, this attitude compelled Saudi Arabia to hide its partnership with the USA from the public and relocate the US base to a remote location (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). The emergence of anti-American views highlights the negative attitudes to the American presence in the Persian Gulf, which imposes significant restraints on the extent of the military cooperation of both countries.
Iran, in turn, has exhibited a complete disregard towards the US presence in the region. Several factors indicate the rise of Iranian power. The Israeli failure to crush the Hezbollah movement signified the reemergence of this Iranian long-time ally in 2006 while the newly elected government of Mahmud Ahmadinejad had expressed strong opposition against the US involvement and the establishment of Israel (Gause III, 2010). The radical changes of Iranian political affiliations indicate the shortcomings of the US “two pillars” policy as both former allies have refrained from reviving bilateral relations. Additionally, weak diplomatic initiatives have failed to restore the existing equilibrium of power. The members of P5+1 signed an agreement about the abandonment of the Iranian nuclear program (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). However, this diplomatic initiative evoked highly hostile reactions from Saudi Arabia and Israel as well as bitter condemnations of American and Iranian citizens (Legrenzi & Gause III, 2016). These examples emphasize the rising tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, while the United States faces growing anti-American attitudes in both countries (Strobel & Landay, 2016). Conversely, the rise of regional players indicates the desire to fill the vacuum of power that has emerged after the US withdrawal. The Saudi-Iranian rivalry has increased their involvement in the regional security issues as well as led to the articulation of aggressive strategies that, to various extent, contradict the US agenda.
Upon the US withdrawal from Iraq, the international countries also strived to fill the emerging vacuum of power by actively engaging in regional affairs. Thus, Russia and China are primarily invested in resolving the Syrian internal conflict. Both states have blocked the adoption of the UN resolution that sought to impose economic sanctions on Syria (Ayoob, 2014). According to the latter, the Russian and Chinese opposition functions as a counterweight to the Western powers that could use their collective force to initiate the regime change. Apparently, by toppling the Assad regime, the USA aims at punishing Iran for the long-term resistance to signing the agreement on nuclear disarmament (Ayoob, 2014). The diplomatic activities of Russia and China have successfully averted the possibility of any international intervention by denying the USA the endorsement of the UN Security Council. Hence, international rivals have learned to use legal tools in order to prevent the US-led intervention in Syria from happening. This phenomenon illustrates the firm determination of China and Russia to challenge the hegemonic ambitions of the USA and Western Europe.
The emergence of conflicting regional identities has mostly negated the Western attempts at the facilitation of international cooperation. Some scholars describe the struggle for regional domination as a clash of cultures. According to Gause’s (2010) assertion, the US invasion of Iraq is the conflict between regional neo-fundamentalism and American neo-conservatism. Meanwhile, the Saudi-Iranian rivalry constitutes the most recent example of the identity clash. In contrast, participation in the Syrian conflict represents the competition between the supporters of Pan-Arab (Saudi Arabia) and Pan-Islamist (Iran) ideologies (Ayoob, 2014). Iran is particularly interested in supporting the Assad government since the Shia-dominated state of Syria restrains the growing power of Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Israel (Ayoob, 2014). Therefore, the existence of conflicting identities is the main reason for the slow formation of regional institutions that would coordinate international cooperation.
The absence of formidable supranational bodies stimulates a strong resistance to the implementation of international economic initiatives. Thus, the American “Greater Middle East Strategy” and the European “Mediterranean” initiatives, aimed at incorporating the Persian Gulf into the world politics, have little chance for success (Fawcett, 2016). Thus, Fawcett (2016) suggests that the clash of regional identities might remove the external pressure regarding the creation of regional institutions since the varying positions on religious and political issues largely contribute to a lack of progress in the democratization of the Persian Gulf. The states could remain highly resistant to the European and American encouragement in forging multilateral cooperation. The combination of cultural resistance, the growing assertiveness of regional policies, and the decline of the US influence may result in the replacement of this superpower with the regional players as chief supervisors of political stability in the Persian Gulf.
2.3. The Political Situation in Qatar
The relations between the USA and Qatar have never been entirely perfect, but despite all problems, the two countries have been allies for more than 70 years. However, some doubts emerged with the death of King Abdullah in January 2015. Former President Barack Obama insisted on “the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond” (Stack, 2015). Such a statement has shown that the United States is interested in keeping the relations unchanged. The American leader has visited the successor to shake hands and let him and the world know: is a vital US partner in the region of the Middle East. Thus, several points of Saudi-American relations matter nowadays, which means one should support counterterrorism, the military sphere, and the boycott of Qatar. The counterterrorism cooperation began with the 9/11 tragedy. The US military operation in the Middle East concluded in 2003. However, the ties between the two countries were damaged because of a wave of anti-Saudi and Qatar sentiment that had emerged in the USA after 9/11. Nevertheless, both governments have never broken their ties in the sphere of counterterrorism. As for now, such cooperation is essential due to the evolution of the Islamic State. Qatar seems to be a very loyal Middle East country when it comes to counterterrorism and US participation in it. Moreover, most likely, the situation will not change significantly in the nearest future.
In the military sphere, both countries have always been strategic partners since the beginning of the past century. Not only did the USA wanted to have a strong alliance with a big player in the Persian Gulf, but it also considered it is essential to have such a significant partner in the arms trade. However, the situation changed a few times because of the unstable affairs in Yemen. In March 2015, President Obama claimed that he had allowed the US forces to help the Saudis, supporting them during their intervention in Yemen. Specifically, the Joint Planning Cell project was established by the US, together with Saudi Arabia (Al-Mujahed & DeYoung, 2015). After that, the US government lawyers became interested in whether their state was legally a co-belligerent in the conflict. Such a finding obliged the USA to investigate whether the Saudis had committed war crimes (Strobel & Landay, 2016). Most definitely, this was the reason why the Obama Administration had blocked the transfer of the armament to Saudi Arabia (Cooper, 2016). In January 2017, the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis insisted on the importance of maintaining a strong relationship between the USA and its ally Saudi Arabia (De Luce & McLeary, 2017).
Furthermore, he asked President Trump to remove any obstacles that prevented the USA from providing military support to Saudi Arabia (DeYoung & Ryan, 2017). All these concerns resulted in a new arms deal in May. The estimated value of that deal was $110 billion immediately and about $350 billion over the next ten years.
Finally, the Qatar crisis emerged after the allegations that the country had supported terrorism. Thus, four of the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, started the boycott that later appeared to be disadvantageous for the United States. Qatar is home for a massive US airbase, located in al-Udeid, and this base is essential for fighting the Islamic State. Qatar denied supporting terrorists and extremists, and the US military even halted some of the exercises with the Gulf countries (Hubbard, 2018). The Americans’ attempted to end the dispute by using their influence. These affairs have shown that the US must keep the balance among its strategic partners in the region, and it is not possible to ignore one of them at the moment since this can influence the economy and the military negatively. Qatar is undoubtedly an important partner of the US in the Middle East. It is so important because of many factors such as joint military and counterterrorism operations as well as the arms trade. Despite all the problems that happened during the history of both countries’, bilateral relations, at this moment, both of them understand their mutual importance, and they will work in this direction in the future.
2.4. The Effect of the Economy on Tourism
Tourism demand is rising amid the increase of disposal income of the middle-class population in emerging markets and developing economies, the growing number of millennials want to experience new adventures, and the decrease in travel costs (WEF, 2016). However, economic stability is considered one of the key challenges to sustain the growth of the tourism industry. For example, during the 2008-2009 financial crisis international tourists declined by 4% and international tourism receipts declined by 6% (UNWTO & ILO, Economic Crisis, International Tourism Decline, and its Impact on the Poor, 2013).
In 2019, the world witnessed the slowest economic growth since the financial crisis in 2008-2009, where the global GDP grew by 2.9%, amid heightened trade tensions, geopolitical uncertainties, an ailing Euro area economy, and weak private consumption especially in emerging and developing economies (IMF, 2020). According to Webber, Buccellato, and White, (2010) tourists spending is highly affected by the economic stability. The latter authors conducted a study analyzing the impact of the global financial crisis on international tourism spending the United Kingdom. The study revealed that the economy suffered a total loss of Euros 87 million due to the drop in tourist arrivals resulting from the financial crisis.
On the same front, Haddad, Nasr, and Ghida, (2015), during a period of economic instability, potential tourists prefer to spend their assigned amount of savings on other needs instead of traveling especially if economic ambiguity is prolonged over a prolonged period of time. For example, tourists traveling to/from the United Kingdom are expected to grow by a shy 2.3% in 2019 compared to 2018 amid the uncertainty over Brexit (which is expected to diminish in 2020 as a no deal-brexit scenario started to fade away (UNWTO, 2020).
The argument discussed by Hadda, Nasr, and Ghida (2015) and Webber, Buccellato, and White, (2010) is proved by numbers, the United Nations World Tourism Organization expects a growth of 4.0% in international tourism in 2019 compared to 2018, down from 5.6% registered in 2018 over 2017. Consequently, also the organization estimates tourism receipts growth to slowdown in 2019 growing by 3.6% compared to 2018 down from 7.6% registered in 2018 over 2017.
2.5. The Impact of Geopolitical Tensions on Tourism
Lancaster (1971) developed an economic theory analyzing tourists’ spending patterns stating that a tourist spends on a multitude of goods instead of a single commodity. The theory further analyzed tourists’ perception of a certain destination, stating that tourists can easily decide to utilize their vacation time in another country if they encountered violence. Geopolitical risks (hereinafter mentioned as GPRs) in designated regions have a negative impact on tourism due to various reasons (Ivanov, Webster, & Mladenovic, 2014). According to the latter authors, political instability majorly affects tourists flows resulting from security concerns over life and health issues. Therefore, tourists try to avoid destinations they consider insecure. Furthermore, political tensions between neighboring countries may cause visa restrictions, non-recognition of passports, border closures, which hamper tourism flows. Besides, political instability often triggers economic instability, which restricts access to money, resulting in a decrease in tourism spending (Webster & Ivanov, 2015).
Haddad, Nasr, and Ghida (2015) points out that the international tourist’s arrivals is mainly impacted by political risks in emerging and developing economies. On the same front, Kozak (2007) stated that risks influence travelers’ plans. Also, Slevitch and Sharma (2008) stated that travelers are ready to incur additional costs for products and services, ensuring that their safety and security is not jeopardized. For example, destinations like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria disruption in demand for tourism is highly expected. Richter and Waugh (1986) stated that “Tourism is frequently an early casualty of internecine warfare, revolution, or even prolonged labor disputes. Even if the tourist areas are secure . . . tourism may decline precipitously when political conditions appear unsettled. Tourists simply choose alternative destinations.” If a country is well known for its warm, and sunny climate and its main attraction is nice beaches and tourists found themselves vulnerable to violence, tourists can easily choose another destination with similar aspects.
Neumayer (2004) stated that even if tourists value a specific country’s characteristics, unjoyful events comprising tourists can substantially harm the tourism industry. The latter also stated that even if tourists are restrained by their travel plans, they can easily cancel their trip and bare the additional costs without compromising their safety and security. In 1991, Enders and Sandler (1991) conducted a study analyzing the impact of terrorist attacks on tourism flows in Spain and some Western countries. The study suggested tourist arrivals are expected to decline drastically between a period of 3 to 9 months after the incident. Also, the study revealed that tourists are so sensitive towards creating a negative destination image. Unjoyful events and violence can have a prolonged effect on the destination image even after stability has been restored. Tourism will only recover after the negative image is diminished from the tourists’ mindset. Sönmez, Apostolopoulos, and Tarlow (1999) stated that political risks and violence majorly impacted tourism demand in Zanzibar, Maldives, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.
On the other hand, Mansfeld, Yoel, and Kliot, (1996), suggested that countries neighboring states witnessing conflicts are benefiting from tourism flows fleeing from risks. For example, Turkey benefited from the conflict In Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, as tourists looking for exploring ancient sites are going to a safer destination with the same characteristics. As for Europe, Italy benefited from the spillover of tourists willing to visit Eastern European countries witnessing conflicts during the 1990s.
On the same front, Balli, Uddin, and Shahzad (2019) stated that GPRs in emerging and developing countries might not be long-lasting. The recent coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, the military intervention in Thailand in 2014, increasing domestic political risks in the short run. However, tourism demand recovered in the period between 1 to 3 months only. To explore the impact of GPRs on tourism flows, Balli, Uddin, and Shahzad (2019) conducted a study using an empirical model to assess the impact of GPRs on tourism flows, in emerging and developing economies. Results obtained revealed that the impact of GPRs for the selected countries, namely Mexico, Turkey, South Korea, Fiji, and Malaysia on tourism flows was heterogeneous. Some countries were immune to GPRs, while GPRs majorly impacted others.
3. Conceptual Framework
The conceptual framework indicates the primary topics investigated in the literature review chapter. Based on data collected from the literature review, geopolitical tensions are considered a down force for tourism, especially when associated with violence, military intervention, an increased level of crimes, and prolonged political risks, and economic instability.
Based on the above-mentioned aspects, this research will assess the aspects of geopolitical tensions on the perception of tourists from traveling to Qatar.
This section will discuss the four main aspects of research, namely, research designs, data collection, research questions, sampling method, and finally, the validity and reliability methods used. The topic of this research was chosen based on personal interest to analyze the impact of the blockade and geopolitical tensions on the perception of tourists from visiting Qatar.
4.1. Research Design
According to Kumar (1999), the research design is a procedure set by researchers to answer the research questions accurately and with validity. Thyer (1993) described research design as a “blueprint” on how and what the research needs to be completed, which include the variables analyzed, sample, data collection and analysis methods, and testing the hypothesis. Veal (2017), stated that research could vary between exploratory, descriptive, and evaluative. Similarly, Kothari (2004) argued that research design is a combination of the different variables that could affect the data collection phase. The latter stated that the research design highlights what the study is about, connect patterns, and highlights methods to be used. This research is exploratory since it investigates the impact of the blockade and the surrounding geopolitical tensions on tourists’ perception of visiting Qatar. In addition, this study will explore whether this has affected the social and economic situation in Qatar. Secondary desk research was conducted exploring a plethora of scholarly articles to gain proper knowledge about the subject matter.
This research will use the multi-mixed method defined by Creswell (2014), which follows both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods. This theory allows the researcher to gain different perspectives and collect a considerable amount of data. In addition, the theory allows the research to gain more insights comparing two different sets of data (Creswell, 2014).
4.2. Data Collection
Data collection methods used will be a questionnaire and interview questions. A questionnaire is a set of questions used to collect and store information. The questionnaire can be either standard or developed as per the objective of the study (Flood, Bennett, Melsome, & Northway, 2013). The designed questionnaire is aimed to cover the conceptual data model of the study at hand. Data collected from the questionnaire responses will be analyzed using the Microsoft excel analysis tool pack, which has a multitude of analysis methods available. This research will use descriptive statistics to analyze data obtained from the questionnaire and connect patterns between answers. As for interviews, according to Zikmund, Babin, Carr, and Griffin (2009) interviews are considered powerful tools for data collection. As argued by the latter, the interviewer can collect data on the spot, and in case of any ambiguity, the interviewer can take immediate feedback from the interviewee. Kyale (1994) stated that interviews are the art of data collection. On the same front, Valentine (2005) stated that the most important strength in interviews is that a variety of questions can be asked, and interviews can have many types, including structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. How did you analyze the data from the interviews?
4.3. Sampling Method
This research conducted two interviews with two senior personnel working within the tourism industry, which requested to keep their profile anonymous due to confidentiality reasons. The Questionnaire was distributed to a population of 250 potential respondents. Responses reached 177 response out the 250 targeted, and a full-sample was taken for analysis.
The sampling method used would be random sampling as no specific pattern is required to be dragged out of the total population. Random sampling is easy convenient and ensures an average number of respondents is represented in the research. According to Taherdoost (2016), “The simple random sample means that every case of the population has an equal probability of inclusion in sample.”
4.4. Validity and Reliability
Validity and reliability are essential parts that need to be discussed during research. Data collection is often connected to humans’ perception and needs, which sometimes need to be considered and analyzed. According to Heale and Twycross (2015), validity is to what extent is a persons’ perception is measured accurately in quantitative data collection. Validity ensures the proper measurement that answers are withing the questionnaire boundaries. On the other hand, reliability indicates the normality of data measured (Heale & Twycross, 2015). The factors are considered on a specific scale and tested multiple times. The validity method for the quantitative data was content validity. According to Heale and Twycross (2015), is the extent to which a measure covers the construct of interest. Content analysis of the questionnaire was analyzed based on previous studies conducted, while reliability was tested using equivalence reliability i.e. checking consistency amongst responses of multiple respondents of the questionnaire.
Concerning the qualitative data, according to Conway, Jako, an DeLong (1995), interviews are often associated with several aspects that can decrease the reliability of data derived especially from interviews. Differences can be in the terms the questions asked, data, and interpretation. The meta-analysis study by Conway, Jako, an DeLong (1995) stated that these problems were minimized by conducting One-to-one interviews with standardized questions. Accordingly, to ensure reliability of the data aggregated, a set of standardized questions was constructed to address the interviewees. As for validity, the same study stated that validity is at its highest when the interviewers use situational and job-related questions, which was the case in the study at hand.
5. Results and Analysis
This part of the research will present and discuss the results obtained from the questionnaire (quantitative data) and the answers acquired from the interviews conducted (qualitative data). This section will be divided into three parts. The first part will present the data derived from the questionnaire, the second part will discuss the data derived from the interviews, while the third part will discuss the results compared to the literature review and will answer the research questions.
5.1. The Extent Tourism Contributes in the Development of the Qatari Economy
The quantitative data aggregated to discuss the contribution of tourism in the economic development of Qatar was concluded in three questions. Question number one was aimed to identify whether Qatar is diversifying its economic portfolio or not. Answers were based on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, where 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, and 5=Strongly Agree. Answers were distributed as follows
Figure 1 – Answers to Question 1: “Qatar is diversifying its economic portfolio by supporting the services industry in general and specifically tourism”
Answers came in line with the literature review. Based on the data derived from statista in 2018, the contribution of the services sector to the Qatari economy reached around 47.1% in 2017, up from around 26% in 2011, where the economy mostly relied on hydrocarbon production (statista, 2018). According to the economic outlook for 2018-2020 released by the Planning and Statistics Authority of Qatar, the contribution of hydrocarbon production to Qatari GDP will fall by 10.1 percentage points in 2020, where the economy will rely more on construction and services (PSA, 2018).
The second question addressed the respondents to advise whether tourism is a vital component of the Qatari Economy. According to the World Tourism and Trade Council (2019), travel and tourism contribution to the Qatari economy reached 9.4% in 2018, which is equivalent to QAR 64.5 Billion, and supports around 194,400 jobs. Besides, the sector secured USD 12,968.4 million in tourism receipts. Answers to the second question “Tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy,” was also based on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, where 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, and 5=Strongly Agree. Answers also came in line with the report published by the World Travel and Tourism Council, and were distributed as follows:
Figure 2 – Answers to Question 2: “Tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy”
A total of 167 respondents Strongly Agree and Agree that tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy, while only 10 responses were Neutral stating that tourism contribution to the Qatari economy has no impact on the overall productivity of the nation.
Looking at question number three, the researcher addressed the respondents to advise in their opinion how tourism is contributing to the Qatari economy. The question stated, “How tourism is contributing to the development of the Qatari economy.” Responses where defined by the author based on the literature articles analyzed on the impact of tourism on the economy, and can be summarized as follows:
- Tourism facilitates the increase in investment activities (hotels, malls, hospitals, recreational areas)
- Tourism brings additional revenues from hosting International Events
- The increase in tourism receipts positively impacts the economy of the hosting state
Figure 3 – Answers to Question 3: How tourism is contributing to the development of the Qatari economy
Almost all respondents agreed that tourism plays an essential role in the Qatari economy by generating a notable amount of tourism receipts, investment activities, and increase in revenues from international events being a vital component that drags more tourists to Qatar. As discussed in the literature review, events like the FIFA World Cup 2020 is expected to trigger economic development to the state of Qatar, through construction, investment, and spending activities either by locals or international tourists.
Looking at the qualitative data collected to discuss the first theme, the first question was “How can you describe the economic portfolio of Qatar? Please explain.”
In general, respondents highlighted that Qatar started diversifying its economic portfolio since the early 2000s to reduce its reliance on energy production and the industrial sector in general. Interviewees gave an example of neighboring Gulf states that they are still relying heavily on the oil sector, which is considered unfeasible for the long term.
The following responses was submitted by the interviewees:
Interviewee 1: “The state of Qatar started diversifying its economic portfolio since the early 2000s to reduce its reliance on hydrocarbon production. In 2018 the latest figures released by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics in Qatar stated that around 50% of the Qatari GDP is derived from the services industry, of which 10% is attributed to travel and tourism. Unlike other neighboring gulf states the state of Qatar worked extensively on diversifying the economic portfolio of Qatar to rely more on services, trade and non-hydrocarbon production.”
Interviewee 2: “The work done by Qatar during the past couple of years to diversify its economic portfolio was enormous. The country shifted its economy from a 100% energy dependent to 50/50 in less than 10 years. Qatar promoted sectors like tourism, investment, and construction, which became one of the economy’s cornerstones.”
The second question was “Do you think tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy? And how did it evolve during the past years? Please explain.”
Responses came in line with the literature review and responses collected from the questionnaire. Interviewees stated that tourism is a vital component of the Qatari economy. The Qatari government has made considerable investments in the sector, including infrastructure, service facilities, and specialized areas of interest.
The following responses was submitted by the interviewees:
Interviewee 1: “Indeed, tourism contributes by around 10% to Qatari GDP, which is equivalent to around QAR 65 billion and supports 194,400 jobs, which is enormous when compared to neighboring states in the GCC area or even in the Middle East. The future of the economy is services, and Qatar is working towards moving its economy away from energy production be more reliant on services and in particular travel and tourism.”
Interviewee 2: “Doha has become on the map of international tourism, investments in state-of-the-art facilities like the HIA airport, isalmic museum, the pear, and so on have attracted more international tourists leading to more opportunities, and more opportunities means more economic and social development. So, yes, I totally agree tourism has became the new energy production of Qatar and will continue to flourish in the upcoming years.
Looking at question number three, “Do you think Qatar has managed to build destination image during the past years? Please Explain.” Responsesreassured that Qatar reserved a seat amongst the popular destinations worldwide, with tourists’ arrivals increasing notably every year. The efforts done by the Qatar National Tourism Authority supported by the visionary leadership of Qatar have opened the door for remarkable achievements.
The following responses was submitted by the interviewees:
Interviewee 1: “Of course, Qatar through its national tourism authority previously, now Qatar National Tourism Authority have established a well reputable image for Qatar as a tourism destination. The agency worked hard to host international events, and the government heavily invested in infrastructure, airports, recreational areas to attract tourists, not only for leisure but also for medical purposes. Qatar witnessed a boom in the medical industry, hosting several tourists arriving to the nations soil to benefit from the most advanced medical facilities.”
Interviewee 2: “I think I covered this in previous answer when looking at the developments and investments in the tourism sector.”
5.2. The Extent the Blockade and the Surrounding Geopolitical Tensions Affected the Tourists’ Perception about Visiting Qatar
Similarly, a combination of quantitative and qualitative data was collected to discuss the second theme.
Question number four addressed the respondents to rate on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1= Major Impact, 2= Medium Impact, 3=Neutral, 4= Low Impact, 5= No Impact, what disrupts international tourism flows. A predefined set of possible reasons was developed by this study as listed below:
- Airspace closure
- Border closure
- Economic and political boycott
- Geopolitical tensions
Figure 4 – Answers to Question 4: “International tourism flows are mainly impacted by”
Airspace closures ranked first on the list where it was listed 161 times as having a major impact on tourism flows, followed by economic and political boycott 49 responses, and border closures and geopolitical tensions equally recorded 33 responses. As for the medium impact, economic and political boycott ranked first with 128 responses, followed by Geopolitical tensions 75 responses, and finally border closure 16 responses. On neutral impact, 128 responses stated that border closure could have an effect or do not affect tourism flows, followed by airspace closure 16 responses, while the remaining factors didn’t have any responses. Finally, 69 responses stated that geopolitical tensions have no impact on tourism flows. Based on the aggregated data, by calculating the total score for each variable, Airspace closure ranked first as the major impact on international tourism flows, followed by the Economic and Political Boycott, followed by geopolitical tensions in general, and finally border closures. As stated by Ivanov, Webster, and Mladenovic (2014), GPRs have a negative impact on tourism due to political instability, concerns over life and health issues, visa restrictions, non-recognition of passports, border closures, which hamper tourism flows. Also, Haddad, Nasr, and Ghida (2015) points out that political risks negatively impact the international tourist’s arrival in emerging and developing economies. Furthermore, Slevitch and Sharma (2008) stated that travelers’ number one priority is their safety and security, and they are ready to incur additional costs for products and services to divert their travel plan from hot areas. On the same front, Ivanov, Webster, and Mladenovic (2014), linked the decrease in tourism flows to political risks when violence exist, and not in normal political instability. On the other hand, Richter and Waugh (1986) directly linked the decrease in international tourists’ arrivals to prolonged political instability.
Following question number five, the respondents were asked whether Geopolitical tensions have a negative impact on tourist’s flow to Qatar. Responses where based on a Likert scale of 1 to 5, were 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Neutral, 4=Agree, and 5=Strongly Agree. Answers also came in line with the literature review. All 177 respondents Strongly Agree that geopolitical tensions had a negative impact on tourist’s flow to Qatar. As stated by Haddad, Nasr, and Ghida (2015) political risks negatively impact the international tourist’s arrival in emerging and developing economies. In addition, Richter and Waugh (1986) stated geopolitical risks have a negative impact on tourism due to political instability.
Afterward, question number six addressed the respondents on their opinion on whether they recommend traveling to Qatar despite the current geopolitical tensions in the country and its surrounding neighbors. Answers came as follows:
Figure 5 – Answers to Question 6: ” Would you recommend traveling to Qatar despite of the current geopolitical tensions in the country and its surrounding neighbors?”
Around 70% of the total respondents, which is equivalent to 124 responses, advised that they recommend traveling to Qatar despite the geopolitical tensions in the country and the Middle East region. According to the study done by Balli, Uddin, and Shahzad (2019), which used an empirical model to assess the impact of GPRs on tourism flows in emerging and developing economies, GPRs effect on tourism flows in emerging and developing countries might not be long-lasting, especially if not associated with violence and military intervention. Further results obtained revealed that the impact of GPRs for the selected countries, namely Mexico, Turkey, South Korea, Fiji, and Malaysia on tourism flows, was heterogeneous. Some countries were immune to GPRs, while GPRs majorly impacted others.
As for question number seven, “International tourists to Qatar decreased due to the blockade and tensions in the Middle East Region,” all 177 respondents stated that the blockade and the tensions in the middle east region have to lead to the decrease in international tourists arrivals to Qatar.
Results obtained from interviews were inline with the literature review and the questionnaire data.
Question number four, “Do you think that geopolitical tensions have a negative impact on tourist’s flow to a certain country? Please explain.
Responses from both interviewees were homogenous, stating that geopolitical tensions have a limited effect on tourists’ arrivals if not followed by violence, acts of war, or military interventions. Both interviewees assured that geopolitical tensions have a limited impact and will fade away with time, especially if no severe military action was taken. Besides, the interviewees gave examples on Turkey and Lebanon, stating that despite the cope attempt in Turkey in 2016 and the ongoing geopolitical tensions in going in Lebanon since 2015, tourists’ arrivals continue to grow.
Question number five: “What do you think would be the tourists’ perception of this destination? Please explain.”
Answers also came in line with the previous question as both interviewees related the issue to violence stating that if geopolitical tensions are not coupled with violence or act of war, tourists’ perception will not change towards a destination, especially possessing the characteristics they enjoy.
As for question number six “How can you describe the case of Qatar, did the blockade negatively affect international tourism flows to Qatar? Especially that a notable chunk comes from neighboring Gulf states, and how did this affect the economy and the society? Please explain” is at the heart of the study at hand. Interviews reveal the expert’s point of view from the case analyzed, especially if there was no literature covering the same topic, which is the case in the study at hand. Interviewees stated that the case of Qatar is unique and does not represent similar countries facing geopolitical tensions. Interviewees stated that before the blockade, around 60% of the total tourist arrivals to Qatar were from Arab states, who are currently part of the diplomatic crisis that started with Qatar in 2017. In addition to the blockade, interviewees mentioned the surrounding geopolitical tensions in the region have affected the overall tourists flow not only to Qatar but also to other neighboring states. However, interviewees advised that if measure the number of tourists arriving from other nations between 2015 and 2018, we can see that tourists’ arrivals to Qatar increased by around 10.1% in three years, only reaching around 1.491 in 2018 million up from 1.355 million in 2015.
5.3. The Effect of decrease in tourism on the Economy and Society in Qatar
Finally, analyzing the last theme discussed, questions eight to ten in the questionnaire were designed to provide a clear understanding of the impact of the blockade on the economy and society in Qatar from the tourism industry perspective. Question number eight addressed the respondents on how the decrease in tourists’ arrivals affected the Qatari economy. The research related the economic impact on three aspects, namely:
Answers to question number eight came as follows:
Figure 6 – Answers to Question 8: how the decrease in tourists’ arrivals affected the Qatari economy
Most respondents related the economic impact on the decrease in tourism receipts. According to the WTTC report in (2019), international tourism receipts reached USD 12,968.4 million, which represents around 13.2% of total revenues from all visitors to Qatar, (whether they were on leisure, or Business) of the Qatari economy. On the same front, Webster and Ivanov (2015) cited that geopolitical tensions restrict access to money limiting tourism spending. In addition, central banks will take easing monetary conditions not allowing tourists to withdraw adequate amount of foreign currencies to send freely on their trip.
Question number nine addressed the respondents on the effect of the decline in tourists’ arrivals on the society in Qatar. This research related this to four main aspects, namely:
Question number nine addressed the respondents on the effect of the decline in tourists’ arrivals on the society in Qatar. This research related this to four main aspects, namely:
- Decrease in government investment’s in new projects
- Decrease in infrastructure spending (airports, rails, busses, recreational areas, etc..)
- Decrease in cultural diversity
- Increase jobless rate
Responses to question number nine came as follows:
Figure 7 – Answers to Question 9: how the decrease in tourists’ arrivals affect the Society in Qatar
Most respondents related the impact on the Qatari society was related to the decrease in cultural diversity. The close cultural ties between the residents and locals in Qatar have deteriorated after the boycott.
Finally, answers to question number ten somehow concluded what the perception of the respondent is if he or she was a tourist, would they avoid traveling to Qatar. The aggregated response showed that 110 respondents would recommend traveling to Qatar despite the current circumstances, while only 67 respondents would recommend avoiding Qatar for tourism.
Figure 8 – Answers to Question 10: Would you recommend traveling to Qatar despite of the current geopolitical tensions in the country and its surrounding neighbors:
As for the interviewees, both mentioned that several travel agents, hotels, and tour operators suffered from the decline in tourist arrivals, which reached around 19.4% in 2018 compared to 2017, which in return led to lower government revenues from events and taxes, decrease in jobs supported by tourism, and lower tourism receipts. Consequently, as mentioned by the interviewees, Qatar felt the pinch in 2018, especially with the decline in energy and construction activities.
As for the social impact, people lost their jobs. The social ties with the Arab region have been lost due to the effect of the intense crisis.
Interviewee 2 answers as follows: “The case of Qatar is unique, before the blockade 54% of the total tourists arriving in Qatar where from Arab countries, of which 44.4% from GCC countries, where are we from that number now, null. So almost 50% of Qatar’s tourists arrivals disappeared overnight, that’s a shock that no country could handle. In addition to the blockade, the geopolitical tensions in a region played a key role in shifting tourism demand from the Middle East in general and Qatar in specific, being geographically close to Iran with all the tensions between the U.S and Iran. In addition, Qatar was accused to support terrorism, which also impacted tourism.
As for the economic effect, of course several tourism agencies, travel agents, and events were canceled due to the decline in tourist arrivals. Yet the country managed to cushion the effect through opening new routes to attract tourists via its national airline to more campaigns to attract tourists. However, the economic instability and elevated geopolitical tension acted as a downforce to all the initiatives launched.”
Finally Question number seven addressed the interviewees if tourists became to avoid Qatar.
Answers came as follows:
Interview 1: “Yes, I believe tourists have become to avoid traveling to Qatar and the region as a whole due to geopolitical instability, heightened tensions between Qatar and its neighbors lead to airspace closure, and the only route out of Qatar is the Iranian airspace, and small area of Kuwaiti Airspace, which can accommodate very limited amount of traffic, what if military actions evolved between the U.S and Iran elevated and the Iranian Airspace is longer accessible how will tourists leave Qatar? This is a big concern. Tourists always think about their safety and security, which is always expected to be at risk while visiting the region.”
Interviewee 2: “I agree the risks are elevated in the region, and Qatar at any time can witness more tensions especially with the heightened risks between the United States and Iran in the region.”
In short, both interviewees believe tourists are becoming to avoid the region as a whole, not only Qatar. Nevertheless, the airspace closure, have made things worse, as, in case of any escalation in the region, Qatar will be blocked, especially from the Iranian side.
As for question number eight, it was only intended for General information, in order to assess the future situation. Interviewee 1 gave a brief answer and added the following statement: “In my opinion I believe this perception will diminish by time if no violence was registered similar to the 1990 gulf war. Tourists always love to visit the middle east and explore heritage cites, malls, state-of-the-art infrastructure.”
The main findings of the study can be summarized as below:
- The Qatar economic portfolio is diverse, and it relies on services, hydrocarbon production, and construction
- Tourism is a vital component of the Qatari Economy.
- The blockade and surround political tensions have caused a steep decline in tourist arrivals to Qatar. However, tourists did not develop a negative perception concerning visiting Qatar, yet they are exercising precautions due to the instability in the region, which was proved in the questionnaire answers, most respondents recommend traveling to Qatar.
- The decline in tourist arrivals impacted the Economy, mainly due to the decline in tourism receipts. While the primary impact on society was cultural diversity
- As for the future situation, it will always be related to stability in the Middle East. However, it is hard to predict that tourist arrivals coming from the Arab countries will witness the same intensity after the blockade, but for other regions Qatar for sure will be a tourism magnet, especially with the upcoming international events.
This part of the research is mainly dedicated to summing up; the results obtained in previous chapters. This study aimed to analyze to what extent did the blockade and the surrounding geopolitical tensions had an impact on tourist arrivals to Qatar. In order to achieve the aim of this study, this research analyzed multiple scholarly articles and multiple data sources. This study developed an understanding of the political situation in the Middle East and Qatar to give the reader an overview of the situation. Besides, this research investigated the effects of geopolitical tensions on tourism in several parts of the world.
This research has distributed a questionnaire to 250 targeted respondents and received only 177 (71% of the total population) responses and utilized the full sample. Also, this research interviewed two senior officers working in the tourism sector, which preferred to keep their identity anonymous for confidentiality reasons. Based on the analyzed results and after comparing those results with the literature review, this study revealed that the decline in tourist arrivals to Qatar was mainly attributed to the drop in tourist arrivals from the Arab states due to the embargo imposed on the nation of Qatar and the surrounding geopolitical tensions in the region. As for the remaining part of the world, tourist arrivals to Qatar increased within an acceptable range. This leads us to the conclusion that tourists did not develop a negative perception of traveling to Qatar despite the blockade and the surrounding tensions. Nevertheless, tourists exercised precaution to avoid endangering their safety and security and have an unjoyful trip in case of tensions elevated. Concerning tourists from the Arab nations, this study cannot predict how will be their perception from traveling to Qatar, and how would be the Qatari perception from hosting them to the loss of trust.
On the other hand, as stated in the finding sections, the impact of the decrease in tourist arrivals was noticed on the economic and social side. From an economic perspective, the decrease in tourism receipts was a significant concern to all parties, especially that most tourists who spend on travel are related to Arab origin. From the social perspective, the most concern was the loss of cultural ties or diversity with other Arab states.
Finally, concerning the future, the region’s political stability is critical for tourism development. Qatar, for sure, will be a tourism magnet, especially with the upcoming international events. However, the challenge remains in reconnecting the Arab people together.
Based on the previous sections’ outcome the following recommendations were developed to be considered by the state of Qatar to boost tourism further and keep a positive image of Qatar in tourists’ minds. As discussed, in the findings section of this research, tourists did not develop a negative perception concerning visiting Qatar, yet they are exercising precautions due to the instability in the region. In this case, Qatar should shift their marketing campaign from just promoting a destination to stating the fact that despite what is happening outside safety and security of our guests is ensured, touristic areas and facilities are well protected, and focusing more on showcasing real life examples. Another recommendation would be feeding international organizations with continuous security practices that Qatar is doing to protect tourists in case of emergency. This will enhance the image of the country further and will allow tourists to rethink their strategy, as most tourists coming from outside the Arab world are subject to consultation before traveling to areas surrounded by a hostile environment. Political situations similar to the case at hand are hard to control, may extend over a long period, and may also be harmful than expected. Accordingly, a workaround policy or a plan B is always required to be in place to overcome such situations.
From an economic perspective, the massive economic impact of the blockade was shocking. Airlines burned more fuel to circle around GCC countries FIRs, diary products are no longer shipped by land, which almost increased prices three folds as goods are coming via air routes, investments dropped, and consumer sentiment was graved. On top of the that, the decrease in tourism receipts which generate around 10.4% of Qatar GDP dropped significantly as 70% of the tourist arrivals with extended overnight stays, come from Arab countries
From an economic perspective, the massive economic impact of the blockade was shocking. Airlines burned more fuel to circle around GCC countries FIRs, dairy products are no longer shipped by land, which almost increased prices three folds as goods are coming via air routes, investments dropped, and consumer sentiment was graved. On top of the that, the decrease in tourism receipts which generate around 10.4% of Qatar GDP dropped significantly as 70% of the tourist arrivals with extended overnight stays, come from Arab countries. Despite, how gloomy this seems, yet the country managed to recover quickly. Trade deals with neighboring countries, such as Oman and Iran, shipping products from Turkey and China, and so on so forth.
As for tourism, international tourism receipts recovered modestly despite the increase in tourist arrivals from outside the Arab world, since such tourists have either very limited budget, or never explored the city before, or don’t have the adequate time to visit all required attractions. Accordingly, concerned government entities should first work on more convenient travel packages, and work more on facilitating hotels compatible with all sort of budgets to match the users’ needs. Second, for example if a passenger is transiting for more than 6 hours, and the airport offers a free tour around the city, the passenger would definitely spend on souvenirs, lunch, certain necessities, and would probably would love to come visit the city again and explore it. Third, work more on letting people outside Qatar to know more about the nation, what are its strengths, popular food, hospitality, by focusing on social media channels mainly. All what have been mentioned will allow all classes of tourists to spend more on overnight stays, attract transiting passengers to become potential tourists, and attract oversees tourists, which will consequently increase tourism receipts.
From a social perspective, since the blockade Qatar lost some of its cultural diversity. The nation had on its soil several expats from neighboring Arab countries, whom are married and settled in Qatar. Those expats trigger Visiting, Family and Relatives (VFR) Tourism, which was also considered as a major loss. The diminishing of VFR tourism between Arab countries and Qatar was not only a loss in numbers, but also a loss in cultural and social ties. In addition, the cultural diversity has decreased, as the number of total Arabs decreased after the blockade. The recommendation for this situation would be dialogue between all states witnessing the crisis to separate political differences from social and cultural ties.
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