Qatar’s tourism ambitions have been marred by controversy every moment since winning the bid to host the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
The tiny Gulf state’s record-breaking spending — a reported $340 billion in total infrastructure spending dwarfs any previous World Cup — has been blamed for its troubling human rights record, poor treatment of migrant workers and LGBTQI+ people, and the corruption surrounding it. overshadowed by the revelation. winning the bid.
Qatar’s celebrity ambassador, David Beckham, has been widely condemned for signing a lucrative multi-year deal to promote the country.
This week British comedian Joe Lycett shredded £10,000 (A$18,000) notes in a video protesting Beckham’s partnership; he later admitted to faking the stunt to draw attention to Qatar’s anti-LGBTQIA+ laws Concern, the law criminalizes homosexuality.
Qatar has an ambitious target to increase the number of tourism visitors per year from 2.1 million in 2019 to 6 million by 2030. But industry experts predict the World Cup will not give Qatar the tourism boost it hopes.
Dr Daryl Adair, associate professor of sport management at the University of Technology Sydney, said a major event like the World Cup could still be “pear-shaped”.
“If the event is well-received and is a tangible legacy for locals and tourists, there is potential for tourism and economic partnerships,” Adair said. In the case of Qatar, however, the massive construction and planning effort has not spared it from reputational damage.
“As an event organizer, it is one thing to have strong financial resources and an innovative spirit, and quite another to earn the respect of the international community,” Adair said.
Demand for World Cup tickets has been strong despite issues such as a shortage of accommodation, restrictions on public displays of affection and alcohol consumption, and challenges in engaging the LGBTQI+ community.
“Footballs are like sausages: a lot of people love to eat them, but they really don’t want to know what it takes to make them,” Adair said. This is why Qatar continues to be integrated into global sport.
But if the strategy is a “sports wash”, the bathwater now looks cloudy, especially with regard to Qatar’s controversial labor laws, he said.
‘Qatar faces huge criticism over Kafala [sponsored migrant] The labor system,” Adair said. “If real and adequate reforms are not part of the legacy after the fact, no amount of movement washing will divert the attention of the ILO and other watchdogs.
Qatar’s recent campaigns include: “Experience Beyond the World,” featuring nine computer-generated mascots; and the recent launch of “No Football. No worries,” an extension of its long-standing Feel More in Qatar global brand platform, powered by Italian football star Andrea Pirlo (Andrea Pirlo) stars.
Will the tourism boost resonate in Australia? Phil McDonald, managing director of creative agency BCM Group, said that was unlikely, saying Australian tourists were looking for authentic and unique holiday experiences overseas.
“[Using] Something as unnatural as CGI characters and celebrities doesn’t feel very unique and natural,” says MacDonald.
Instead, the country’s popularity on the world stage may actually hurt its tourism prospects.
“There are more journalists [in Qatar] More than you’ll ever be in this country, so the country, the culture and the government are exposed at every level. I don’t think it’s going to work,” MacDonald said.
Qatar will not completely lose the game, said Dr Gui Lohmann, deputy director of the Griffith Tourism Institute, who believes the Gulf state is following a similar economic model to Dubai.
“Qatar is trying to expand itself into different areas; the commercial area is very important, especially to establish a transit point – Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been very successful in this regard,” Roman said.
But while travelers are more likely to “turn a blind eye” to stopovers, leisure tourists in Australia will have a hard time winning over, as the destination image is not aligned with openness and inclusivity.
“Qatar is very naive to think that those key issues [of human rights] would not be seen as oppressive,” Lohmann said.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get Australian families to give up their holidays in Fiji because Fiji is a country that’s known for being a bit closed off and having human rights issues.”