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The Qatar Paradox
The recent news of celebrity chef, Gordan Rasmsay’s premature closing of his restaurant, Maze at the much hyped Pearl-Qatar, makes Kipp focus on the paradox that is Qatar today
June 11, 2012 4:07 by kippreport
The news adds to a string of woes, not only for Qatar’s prestigious man-made island, The Pearl, but also for the country’s brand image and tourism industry. Dubbed as ‘Rivera Arabia’ of the Middle East, this property has been struggling with dwindling revenue since the alcohol ban was imposed on the island by the Qatar government in December 2011.
Moreover, even as Qatar struggles to establish itself on the Middle East map as a premium tourist destination, news of a blanket ban on belly dancing across the country is a source of much contention for spectators. Residents claimed the dancers were vulgar and not representative of the Qatari culture, hence they supported the ban.
Questions are also being raised about how alcohol will be handled at the Doha 2022 World Cup. Qatar won the bid to beat the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia in December 2010 with the promise that the country will provide the best international standards for visitors, including special fan zones with permission to buy and consume alcohol. However, recently, it has come to light that the organizing committee has been getting hot under the collar over the issue and hasn’t been able to give a straight answer to the media.
Sure, Qatar has topped the Forbes list of the world’s richest country this year, but does it have the aplomb to balance tradition with the fast pace of a snazzy new urban hub? Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt from UAE’s poster boy- Dubai.
Notwithstanding its debts, if there’s anything Dubai taught its fellow Arab nations, it is a spanking lesson in branding. The image of Dubai in the eyes of the public made The Dubai Mall the most visited mall in the world in 2011 and generated revenue to the tune of Dh5.9 billion from regional and international visitors alone (excluding residents) during the Dubai Shopping Festival 2012. The influence of Emirati culture is strong and omnipresent but never overpowers Dubai’s core branding.
In the case of Qatar, unless the Tourism Department, together with the Ministry of Culture and the citizens of Qatar decide to speak in a single, unified voice, the country’s plea to be heard may well be drowned in the cacophony of contradicting messages.