Blow to Qatar tourism as both Prince William and Rishi Sunak shun World Cup

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Blow to Qatar tourism as both Prince William and Rishi Sunak shun World Cup

Prince William will not attend England’s first World Cup match in Qatar later this month, despite his role as Football Association President, according to media reports.

The Sun newspaper said the decision came ‘amid a growing row over Qatar’s human rights record.’

It also said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Southampton FC fan, has ‘no plans’ to go to the World Cup.

While, officially, sources close to the future King blamed a busy diary, the decision will be a blow to Qatar’s tourism industry. A visit by the Prince – and Princesss – of Wales would have been a big boost for the country.

The Middle East destination, already a popular transit hub for holidaymakers travelling onwards to Asia, Australia and the Indian Ocean, is hoping the World Cup will increase awareness of its tourism product.

Prince William, a keen football fan, had been expected to attend England’s first game against Iran on 21 November, but The Sun said it had been told by ‘friends’ of the royal that he was unlikely to travel to Qatar even if England makes it through to the final on 18 December.

There has been widespread condemnation of poor conditions for foreign workers building stadia for the World cup and for the country’s criminalisation of same-sex relationships.

Last month, the official England fan club voiced concerns that even those with match tickets might not travel to the tournament because of high hotel prices and a lack of things to do while they were there.

And last week, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly requested gay fans to ‘be respectful of the host nation’ following the arrest of LGBTQ+ activist Peter Tatchell in Qatar.

In September, a newspaper investigation raised concerns about the treatment in Qatar of former Thomas Cook and TUI director Marc Bennett, who was found dead in his hotel room in the capital Doha after being arrested and allegedly tortured. Marc had been hired by Discover Qatar, part of Government-owned Qatar Airways, to raise awareness of Qatar ahead of the World Cup.

Despite the controversy, the Institute of Travel and Tourism has confirmed it will go ahead with its conference in Qatar next year. In a statement it said:

ITT said that it ‘has long been committed to promoting travel as a force for good and looks forward to continuing that work in Doha’.

It added: “As a Board, we feel that we can achieve more for the memory of Marc Bennett by highlighting what Qatar needs to do for its future as a travel destination than by boycotting popular destinations.”

Travel Gossip has approached Qatar Tourism for a comment.

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