Terrorism and Tourism: The new enemy is Qatar with GCC tourism in danger

Terrorism and Tourism: The new enemy is Qatar with GCC tourism in danger

If you are booked on Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, or Emirates Airlines, you may be in for a bad surprise this Monday morning.  Dangerous clouds are moving in for Tourism in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the rest of the United Arab Emirates.  Tourism to Qatar has a new “too hot” dimension.

The situation in the Gulf region moved from stable to dangerous overnight. Citizens in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt woke up facing a new burning flame and a common enemy. The enemy is Qatar.

Tourists, citizens, and residents traveling to member nation belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council had a freedom of movement – until today. A common visa for tourists is valid in GCC member countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. There is no confirmation yet, but this may have changed today. It sure changed for any Qatar citizen wanting to visit another GCC country.

It can be compared to have Schengen countries in Europe all the sudden closing their borders to each other. The situation is dangerous, and the region may have become unstable overnight.

This may also be a big blow for the three largest airline companies in the world Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways. All three carriers are in GCC member countries and even though they compete, there is a lot of common synergies. All three carriers are reaching out to each others market to fill their planes, mostly with passengers from third countries. Cutting air links overnight between Qatar and the rest of the GCC world is “disaster” written in the sky. Tourism has been booming in Dubai, but also in Qatar. Visiting both countries is now becoming impossible overnight.

The days’ tourists and residents traveled freely between Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Countries are turning into history as of tomorrow.

Turkey has pledged to help Qatar militarily if it would be threatened by external entities. The United States has a very large military base in Qatar, over 10,000 troops.

In October 2016 the U.S. Department of the Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Daniel L. Glaser visited Qatar and met with senior State of Qatar leaders.  Glaser discussed the Government of Qatar’s recent positive efforts to counter terrorist financing with Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser.  The United States Government enjoys a close and ongoing relationship with the Government of Qatar in combatting terrorist financing and supports Qatar’s efforts to deny terrorist financiers access to its financial system.  The United States appreciates Qatar’s role as a coalition partner in the fight against ISIL.

Apparently, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GGC is not sharing this sentiment anymore.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates blocked Qatari websites and broadcasters. Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani later said the country was being targeted in a “hostile media campaign, which we will confront.”

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed ties with Qatar on Monday morning, following a spat in a diplomatic rift in the Gulf region in recent weeks.

This is probably the most serious escalation – most of Qatar’s imports come via Saudi Arabia. eTN reached out to airline and tourism professionals in all GCC countries. Only Etihad Airways responded with an official statement.

Here is what is happening:

Saudi Arabia

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabia has taken this decision as a result of “ serious and systematic violations committed by the authorities in Doha over the past years with the aim of creating strife among Saudi internal ranks, undermining its sovereignty and embracing various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region.”

Among the extremist groups Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of supporting and harboring were the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaeda, by means incitement through its media channels.

“Qatar has also supported the activities of the Iranian-backed terrorist groups in the Qatif province of Saudi Arabia and in neighboring Kingdom of Bahrain. It has also financed, adopted and is harboring extremists who seek to destabilize unity at home and abroad. It has used the media that seeks to fan internal strife. Saudi Arabia has also been made aware that authorities in Doha have supported Houthi militias even after the declaration of the coalition to support the legitimate government in Yemen,” the statement added.

UAE

In a statement, the UAE announced its full support for the Saudi stance towards Qatar, saying the Gulf state has threatened stability and security in the region, and has manipulated and shirked responsibilities and agreements made with the Gulf states.

The UAE has given Qatar’s diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi 48 hours to leave the country after what it said where “Doha’s several policies which destabilizes the security and stability of the region and manipulates commitments”.


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It also warned Qatari citizens they had 14 days to leave the UAE. Citizens from Qatar have also been banned from “even passing through the UAE”.

A statement on UAE’s official news agency WAM’s twitter account said “Emiratis are now banned from visiting or even passing by Qatar at all means”.

Bahrain

Meanwhile, Bahrain decided to sever ties with its neighbor “on the insistence of the State of Qatar to continue destabilizing the security and stability of the Kingdom of Bahrain and to intervene in its affairs”.

A statement also said Qatar’s incitement of the media and supporting of terrorist activities and financing groups linked to Iran were reasons behind the decision.

“(Qatar has) spread chaos in Bahrain in flagrant violation of all agreements and covenants and principles of international law Without regard to values, law or morals or consideration of the principles of good neighborliness or commitment to the constants of Gulf relations and the denial of all previous commitments,” the statement read.

Qatari citizens have 14 days to leave Bahraini territories while Qatari diplomats were given 48 hours to leave the country after being expelled. Meanwhile, Bahrain has also banned all of its citizens from visiting or residing in Qatar after the severance of ties.

“The dangerous Qatari practices have not been confined to the Kingdom of Bahrain, but have also been extended to sister countries that have been informed that such acts reflect a very dangerous pattern which cannot be ignored or accepted and must be addressed with full strength and firmness,” a statement added.

Egypt

A statement to come out from Egypt indicates that one of the reasons was the Qatari government’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo has designated a terrorist group.

“Qatar’s has promoted al-Qaeda’s ideology, and given support to ISIS and terrorist operations in the Sinai. Qatar’s has insisted on interfering in the internal affairs of Egypt and the countries of the region in a manner that threatens Arab national security and promotes the seeds of sedition and division within the Arab societies,” the statement read.

Closing of borders

Saudi Arabia has closed air, land and sea borders with Qatar. The UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have closed both air and sea borders with Qatar. Also, the Arab coalition has said it has suspended Qatar’s participation in all efforts to restore legitimacy in Yemen.

The coalition said it severed all ties with Qatar given the latter’s dealings with militias and its support of al-Qaeda and ISIS as reasons behind the decision, a statement read.

Doha has long faced accusations that it is a state sponsor of terror. Qatari individuals have been sanctioned by the US Treasury for terror-financing activities.

It was also criticized for providing a sanctuary to former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal, who earlier this month used his Doha base — where he has lived in exile for several years — to launch a new policy document.

It’s, Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup Finals.

Author: Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.

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