Property owners and other permitted operators may soon be able to list their units on short-stay booking services like Airbnb and Booking.com, subject to compliance with the requirements set out in the regulations.
With the FIFA Arab Cup 2021 weeks away and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on the horizon, Qatar Tourism has issued new regulations formalising the short-stay rental ("Holiday Homes") activity in the local market.
This codification of the Holiday Home industry may have a wide reaching impact on the Qatari market. Property owners and operators are now encouraged to open up their units to short-stay bookings, providing a new revenue stream separate from the typical one-year residential lease. Holiday Homes will provide much-needed additional supply of accommodation for the country's upcoming mega-events, especially in late 2022, when Qatar is expecting hundreds of thousands of international visitors. A Holiday Homes eco-system may emerge, with commercial opportunities for real estate owners, operators, agencies, photographers, and other service providers.
The new regulations set out certain requirements for Holiday Home units and the Holiday Home rental process.
Qatar Tourism Circular no. 1 of 2021, dated 29 August 2021, provides:
- Standalone villas in any area in Qatar may qualify to operate as Holiday Homes
- Apartments/flats located in "tourist areas" (as defined in the Decision of the Minister of Economy and no. (106) of 2017) may qualify to operate as Holiday Homes. (These tourist areas largely—but not entirely—overlap with the "Designated Areas" open to Non-Qatari ownership, which we recently discussed in our article analysing the new QFC Real Estate Ownership Regulations.)
- Natural or legal persons wishing to engage in Holiday Home rental activities must first obtain a license from Qatar Tourism.
- In addition to property owners, "operators" and "persons with legal status to use the unit" may also obtain licenses. (It remains to be seen whether "persons with legal status" refers to (i) tenants; or (ii) persons appointed by owners to act as holiday homes operators; or (iii) persons with a usufruct interest, i.e. a 99-year lease; or (iv) some combination of these.)
- An applicant must submit an online application through the Electronic Licensing System, along with the documents referred to in Law no. (20) of 2018 on the Regulation of Tourism
- Licenses may be granted if the application is complete and if the department is satisfied with the "readiness of the units".
- If a License is granted, it will be valid for five (5) years and renewable for additional 5-year periods, subject to ongoing compliance. (It is implied that the licenses are unit-specific and not applicant-specific.)
- Holiday Homes must be managed in accordance with requirements set out in the Holiday Homes Circular and its schedules, as well as other applicable legislation, including: Law no. (20) of 2018, Circular no. (1) of 2019, and Decision no. (106) of 2017.
- The Holiday Homes Circular includes a list of service and quality requirements, such as: (i) offering 24/7 emergency contact services for guests; (ii) maintaining and observing a guest complaint policy; (iii) a detailed list of amenities, depending on the classification of the relevant Holiday Homes unit; (iv) promptly handing keys over to guests on the agreed date and time; and (v) honouring all terms in the relevant Holiday Homes rental contract.
- Holiday Homes may not be rented out for a period exceeding thirty (30) days at a time.
- Licenses must be displayed prominently in each Holiday Home.
As the units covered in the Holiday Homes regulation are subject to the provisions of the Regulation of Tourism Law of 2018, Holiday Home units are also subject to inspections and other oversight typically associated with hotels. Law enforcement officials may request information or enter tourist facilities to carry out inspections. Employees of Qatar Tourism may also be authorized to perform inspections or collect evidence.