Qatar 2022, London bans ads for Qatar on public transport

No more advertisements promoting Qatar on London buses, tubes or taxis. London’s carrier, Transport for London, has decided to boycott Qatar as a tourist destination in response to legislation against the LGBT community and conditions for migrant workers in the emirate. Qatar thus joins the other boycotted countries which include, among others, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and Afghanistan. The response of the principality was immediate, which, according to the British press, is reviewing its investments in London.

According to the Financial Times, Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, this week informed Q22, the body that deals with the World Cup, and the Qatar Tourism Authority of his decision. According to a source close to the file, Qatar decided to review its current and future investments in London, “given the opportunity to invest in other cities in the United Kingdom.” He added that TFL’s decision “was interpreted as a message from the Mayor’s office that Qatari businesses are not welcome in London”.

The Guardian notes that the Gulf state has become one of the largest investors in London through its sovereign wealth fund. Earlier this month, The Observer reported that Qatar alone, not counting the personal property of members of the royal family, is the UK’s 10th largest landowner, according to analysts at MSCI Real Assets.

The emirate owns approximately 2.1 million square meters of real estate in Britain. Among the properties in the QIA’s portfolio is the Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. Britain’s tallest building, The Shard, which was built with an estimated £2 billion investment from Qatar; Forbes House mansion; Chelsea Barracks, the Savoy Hotels and Grosvenor House. Qatar also co-owns Canary Wharf and has a 20% stake in Heathrow Airport.

In May, the Gulf country pledged to invest £10 billion over five years in the UK, across the technology, healthcare, infrastructure and clean energy sectors. A spokesperson for Khan told the Financial Times that the mayor was not involved in day-to-day decisions related to advertising on the city’s transit network. A TfL spokesman stressed that it had given “advertising and brand partners additional guidance” on acceptable advertising during the World Cup.

Earl Warner

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