A revised, free-of-charge tourism visa scheme for passengers transiting through Doha was announced on Monday by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Qatar Airways (QA) and Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) in a move to promote the country as a world-class stopover destination.
The new transit visa structure allows passengers with a minimum transit time of five hours at Hamad International Airport (HIA) to stay in Qatar for up to 96 hours (four days), without applying for an entry visa ahead of time.
This is a significant increase from the previous transit visa scheme, which allowed travellers with a minimum layover of eight hours and a maximum of 48 hours (two days) in Qatar.
The transit visa will be available on arrival at HIA to passengers of all nationalities upon confirmation of onward journey and completion of passport control procedures. All visas are approved and issued at the sole discretion of MoI.
The move is designed to make stopovers easier and more attractive to QA’s global passengers. It aims to deliver additional value to the local economy while strengthening Qatar’s position as an attractive tourist destination.
“Whether travelling for business or leisure, we want to enrich the journey of all of our passengers and are restructuring our fares to reflect this initiative and to promote stopovers to travellers,” QA Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker said in a press statement.
The development, announced on the eve of World Tourism Day (WTD), is the third in a series of enhancements that Qatar has made to facilitate entry into the country for visitors. It aims to promote the country as a world-class stopover destination.
Last week, officials announced a new process to quicken the entry of tourists arriving on board cruise ships, and earlier, representatives signed an agreement with VFS Global, which will see the development of a new, faster and more transparent tourist visa application mechanism.
United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general Taleb Rifai commended Qatar on its rapid advancement in this area saying that promoting visa facilitation is a priority for tourism development worldwide and a key element in the competitiveness of tourism destinations.
Brigadier Abdullah Salim al-Ali, director general of the General Directorate of Nationality, Borders and Expatriates Affairs at MoI said the directorate strives to support the country’s growth and development while maintaining security for all visitors and residents.
“We are pleased to further facilitate the movement of the 30mn passengers who pass through HIA every year,” he said. “We welcome them to spend time in Doha and discover Qatari hospitality.”
QTA’s chief tourism development officer Hassan al-Ibrahim echoed these statements saying that by offering an enhanced transit visa to passengers travelling through HIA, Qatar is providing its visitors a welcoming experience from the moment their planes touch down in Doha until they begin their onward journeys to their final destinations.
“As we celebrate WTD’s ‘Tourism for All’ theme, we are delighted to make Qatar more accessible to people from around the world and invite them to discover our country, our cultural heritage and our natural treasures,” he noted.
The introduction of a new transit visa scheme is also a step towards positioning Doha as a turnaround port for cruise ships, al-Ibrahim added.
He said that in the near future, international cruise passengers could fly to Qatar, enter using a transit visa, and begin and end their cruise in Doha.
“This will increase the length of stay in Qatar of a growing segment of visitors, and allow them to further explore our country’s tourism offering, while increasing the economic impact of cruise tourism,” the QTA official explained.
To maximise on their transit through Qatar, visitors can explore Discover Qatar stopover packages offered by QA Holidays. These include desert safaris, city tours, visits to Katara - the Cultural Village, Souq Waqif and The Pearl-Qatar island, museum and art gallery visits, architectural tours, and hotel bookings.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019