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Arab countries avoided due to unrest in the region

Qatari tourists steer clear of Arab destinations

May 15, 2011

DOHA, Qatar - Europe and some Asian cities are emerging as favourite destinations of Qatari holiday-makers this summer, as no one wants to head to an Arab country due to turbulence in the region, tour and travel trade sources say.

Egypt, Lebanon and Syria have long been hot favourites of a majority of GCC vacationers, including most Qatari families, who like to flee the sizzling heat and humidity in their countries during summer.

“This summer, though, there are hardly any bookings for an Arab destination, not even for the three most favourite holiday destinations, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria,” said an industry source.

Egypt is being ruled out by most holiday makers since trouble is still brewing there. Syria is witnessing intense anti-government demonstrations.

And as for Lebanon, political uncertainties prevailing there and the mood in the Shia-dominated south of the country being largely pro-Syria, not many Qatari families want to visit Beirut, the source said.

The UK, France and Germany are where most Qatari families wish to vacation this summer. “Europe, of course, takes the cake since seats are being heavily booked on this sector. There are attractive promotions as well,” said another source from the local travel trade.

Then, there also are places like Hong Kong, Bangkok and Australia where some families wish to travel for holidaying. “But the bookings for these destinations are not as heavy,” said the source.

A major development has been that many Qatari families are not feeling too comfortable making overseas travel plans this summer, as there is some talk in the community of Qatari citizens facing security threats due to Qatar playing pro-people role in some Arab countries that are witnessing anti-regime demonstrations.

A prominent Qatari columnist, Abdulaziz Al Isaq, wrote in Al Sharq on Wednesday highlighting the community’s worry: “Some Qatari families are also thinking to recall their children studying abroad due to the security threat.”

He lamented that even as fellow countrymen were increasingly worried about their safety overseas, Qatari officials remained tight-lipped and did not utter a word on the situation.

According to Isaq, the threats being perceived by compatriots were due to Qatar championing people’s cause in some Arab countries.

Qatari embassies abroad must set up hotlines for the citizens based in some major countries so they could seek help if there is an emergency, he added.

People writing on Qatari social networking sites were yesterday equally concerned, with many criticising Al Jazeera TV channel, accusing it of ‘spoiling’ Qatar’s relations with many fellow Arab countries.

The channel’s exaggerated coverage of events in Arab countries is doing immense harm to Qatar and its people, wrote a commentator.

He said that was the reason why the TV station’s offices in several countries were closed down and their journalists were attacked and assaulted.

“People have begun hating us…so there is the need to improve relations with our neighbors and other Arab countries. Aljazeera’s goals also need to be reviewed. It has become a lethal weapon,” said the commentator. “We are a small and peace-loving country but people outside have started hating us due to Aljzaeera’s coverage,” he added.

“The world hates us,” wrote a commentator. “People suspect us, so we are scared as we don’t know what would happen to us. We expect the worst.”

Analysts, however, feel that Qatar’s stand vis-à-vis Arab countries witnessing anti-regime protests is one of principle and that of backing people, not some influential individuals.

“As a Qatari, we should, therefore, feel proud that we are supporting the voiceless in the Arab world and helping those who are in actual need of help,” said an analyst.

Qatari tourists steer clear of Arab destinations
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