The boycott imposed on Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt is squeezing the country’s tourism sector and Doha’s hotels, which would normally be full in the Eid Al Fitr holiday, have seen steep falls in their occupancy rates.
Average occupancy was around 57 per cent at the start of the Eid festival on Sunday.
We’re usually packed with Saudis and Bahrainis but not this year, a staff member at a five-star hotel said.
The aviation analyst Will Horton estimated Hamad International Airport, one of the Middle East’s busiest, would handle 76 per cent as many flights in early July compared with the same period last year, a loss of about 27,000 passengers a day.
Visitors from the rest of the GCC usually account for almost half of all visitors to Qatar and the decision to cut diplomatic and transport ties on June 5 hit traffic hard.
Doha in early July, assuming the restrictions remain, will have less capacity than a year ago - a confronting figure for a region where every month sets year-on-year records, said Mr Horton, senior analyst at Australia’s CAPA Center for Aviation.
Hundreds of weekly flights to and from Qatar have already been cancelled because of the dispute. Hamad airport will lose fees paid by airlines and passengers, as well as terminal revenue from duty free shops and restaurants.
Air links suspended by the four Arab states represented around 25 per cent of flights by state-owned Qatar Airways, one of the region’s big three carriers.
Elsewhere in the tourist sector, hotels, restaurants and other facilities have had to find new sources of services and goods, in some cases, at higher cost, due to the boycott, said Rashid Aboobacker, a senior director at TRI Consulting in Dubai.
A substantial drop in visitor arrivals is likely to force hotel and real estate developers to re-evaluate their strategies and priorities, potentially causing delays to some of the ongoing tourism projects, he said.
Developing business and leisure tourism is part of Qatar’s drive to develop its economy away from reliance on oil and gas revenue.
Doha aims to raise the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP to 5.2 pe rcent by 2030 from around 4.1 per cent now, while raising the number of people employed by nearly 70 per cent to 127,900.