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Friday, October 30, 2020

Some Qatar tourism employees granted new powers to catch violations

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Doha skyline
Doha skyline

In a “milestone” move, the government has granted some Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) inspectors judicial powers to search tourism facilities, catch violations and confiscate evidence.

The decision comes as the QTA works to bolster the number of visitors to the country several-fold, as part of a long-term vision to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons.

In a statement, Hassan Al Ibrahim, QTA’s chief tourism development officer, said:

“There is no doubt that the decision is a milestone in QTA’s history. For the first time, a number of QTA employees have the full authority to enforce the terms of the law by investigating potential violations that hotels, tourist facilities and exhibition organizers might have committed.

The jurisdiction of these officers include spotting violations, pinpointing perpetrators, and gathering the evidence needed for investigation and trial.”

What it means

Speaking to Doha News, former Qatari justice minister and practicing criminal attorney Dr. Najeeb Al Nuaimi said that some QTA employees would now be allowed to enter any tourism facility without permission, search them for violations and confiscate evidence without obtaining permission from the prosecution’s office.

“This allows the QTA to quickly catch tourism violations and perpetrators,” Al Nuaimi said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The QTA employees then submit the evidence to the prosecution to open an investigation. That department would refer it to trial if the case merits, according to Al Nuaimi.

Potential violations could include practicing tourism or establishing tourism facilities or exhibitions without a license; breaching license conditions; harming the environment; and not providing receipts to customers for services.

Hotels or tourism facility could also be penalized for doing anything that “contradicts the law, public order, public morals or affects public safety or the country’s stability,” according to article 13 of Law No. 6 of 2012.

Last year, this was interpreted as selling alcohol in public parts of the hotel like on the beach, near pools and in hotel lobbies.

Punishments include fines ranging from QR10,000 ($2,700) to QR100,000($27,000), and a prison sentence of up to one year.

However, Al Nuaimi added that QTA employees don’t have executive authority to make arrests or enforce fines, as that’s within the jurisdiction of the police forces.

“They can only confiscate any evidence proving violations and report it to investigative authorities,” he said.

Boosting tourism

According to Al Nuaimi, in the past, QTA employees didn’t have any authority to conduct sudden searches of tourism facilities.

They had to report suspected violations to the prosecution’s office, which took time and gave perpetrators the opportunity to eliminate the evidence.

Last month, for example, several hotels violated regulations when they hiked prices without permission after Qatar saw a large influx of tourists from Saudi Arabia.

In its statement, QTA said:

“The decision will ensure tourism sector’s institutions adherence to the best international tourism standards and practices. It is noteworthy that QTA is working in cooperation with partners in the public and private sector as well as stakeholders in the tourism industry to upgrade tourism in Qatar to international standards.”

Many hotels in Doha declined to comment on the new decision, calling it a sensitive matter.

Judicial authority

Plans to expand QTA’s judicial powers have been in the works for the past few years.

Marmara Istanbul
Marmara Istanbul

This is not the first time government employees have been given judicial authorities in Qatar. Last year, employees from the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning were also given judicial authority to register violations and shut down restaurants that have health code violations.

They have since then shut down several restaurants, including temporarily closing a branch of the prominent Turkish restaurant Marmara Istanbul in Bin Omran following reports of food poisoning.

That case is now in court.

Thoughts?

12 COMMENTS

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KK
KK
5 years ago

So a new type of ‘police’ and more ‘control’ ?

MIMH
MIMH
5 years ago

This has disaster written all over it. Empowering people who are not the police and allowing them to decide what constitutes public morals is going to end badly.

I congratulate QTA for actually making Qatar less tourist friendly.

Edward
Edward
5 years ago
Reply to  MIMH

My thoughts exactly. Vague rules (which means no rules, really) left to the whim of unaccountable bureaucrats to serve as police, prosecutor, and judge with no due process. What could possibly go wrong?

Also, I assume that the inspectors will be in at least some case Qataris, which means that some will embody the time-honored practice in Qatar of having business interests of their own in the industries that they are regulating. Imagine the opportunities for corruption.

Cerebus
Cerebus
5 years ago

“ummm I am from QTA, and this bar must be confiscated” much like the fake CID guys running around this should work out very well. Certainly there must be a better way to increase tourism rather than having roving fun bandits looking for any run of the mill reason to confiscate whatever suits their fancy.

Expat77
Expat77
5 years ago

Dunno whether it’s true if Banana island booking requires minimum 2 days stay.. no choice for 1 day stay?

Guest
Guest
5 years ago

Checks and balances … Checks and balances … Checks and balances

SullyofDoha
SullyofDoha
5 years ago

You just can’t come up with this stuff! LOL

lad
lad
5 years ago

all I can say is…nothing

The Reporter
The Reporter
5 years ago

The sad thing is that the man who came up with this actually believes that stricter control is going to benefit the tourist industry.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
5 years ago

Enforcing public morals at private hotel rooms is not exactly an internationally accepted best practice

Observant One
Observant One
5 years ago

Don’t worry people this is what they are going to do….”The jurisdiction of these officers include spotting violations, pinpointing perpetrators, and gathering the evidence needed for investigation and trial.”…we all know how well the police go about doing this from the carnage on the roads to smoking in Villagio to investigating run of the mill crime…..so don’t panic nothing will change, just more ‘jobs’ for locals to get on the public purse……….

AnonymityBreedsContempt
AnonymityBreedsContempt
5 years ago

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