Search form

Last updated: 29 sec ago

You are here


What ‘blockade’? Lavish Qatari spending in London refutes claims of inhuman sanctions

A high-end Mercedes-Benz motor with Qatari plates parked outside the Harrods department store on Thursday evening. (AN photo by Greg Wilcox)
A high-end Mercedes-Benz motor with Qatari plates parked outside the Harrods department store on Thursday evening. (AN photo by Greg Wilcox)
LONDON: A bright green Mercedes with Qatari plates revs up outside Harrods, as shoppers from the Gulf state pour into the iconic department store. It is just another day under what the authorities in Doha are insisting to refer to as a “blockade.”
Indeed, the Qatari spending over the summer holidays, seen most notably in London’s poshest areas is in sharp contrast to the image local media is trying to portray as an inhuman, collective punishment of the Qatari people.
As the Eid Al-Adha holiday got under way, there was no shortage of supercars being paraded in the UK capital’s posh Knightsbridge district, home to the Qatar-owned Harrods department store and numerous upmarket boutiques.
That is despite the June 5 move by the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — to impose a series of sanctions on Doha over the latter’s alleged support of terror groups.
The quartet views the move as a “boycott” — although Doha interprets it more harshly, as a “blockade” against it.
Yet there were few visible restrictions on moneyed Qataris in Central London over the past few days — with some supercar owners not even perturbed by the area’s parking regulations.
Despite the boycott, spending by Qataris in the UK is actually on the rise, figures obtained exclusively by Arab News show.
According to payments processing company Worldpay, spending in the UK by people with credit and debit cards registered in Qatar rose sharply after the June 5 boycott against the Gulf state.
Total spending in the UK with Qatar-registered cards rose by 6.4 percent in June compared to the year before, the figures show.
And during the week of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday in late June — another popular time for Gulf Arabs to travel — spending on Qatar-registered cards was up by a whopping 49 percent compared to earlier in the month, the Worldpay figures show. Spending using cards registered in Saudi Arabia rose by just 29.1 percent during the same period.
Worldpay said spending by Middle Eastern tourists was “particularly prolific” during the Eid celebrations at the end of June.
James Frost, an executive from the firm, attributed this partly to the slump in the value of the UK pound, as well as the Eid festivities.
“Sterling’s slump is continuing to attract visitors in their droves, safe in the knowledge that their holiday cash will stretch a little further. Eid provides a useful barometer for foreign spending more broadly. The latest figures from this year’s festival point toward a summer spending frenzy from overseas visitors looking to cash in on the weak pound,” he said in July.
Figures for the more recent Eid holiday are not yet available but — if the fleet of Qatar-owned supercars seen on the streets of Knightsbridge is anything to go by — it looks like it is accelerating.
“There are some ridiculous crazy cars,” one parking attendant in the area, who declined to be named due to company policy, told Arab News.
“You don’t even have to see them to know they are around, the noise they make tell you they are here. It’s always busy around the summer, they come here, have some fun and then go home.
“When I dish them out with parking fines they never complain, they just accept it with a smile, they usually have a load of friends with them and they probably don’t want to cause a fuss in front of them.”
Yet there have been numerous complaints from local residents over the supercar-driving tourists from Qatar and other Gulf Arab states that descend on London each summer.
One Knightsbridge resident, who did not wish to be named, told Arab News: “The racket they make is awful, they drive their cars around here and disturb the peace. It can be very annoying at times.”

MORE FROM Middle-East