New relaxed visa rules introduced in August and a campaign called +Qatar run by the country and its airline, which offered stopover passengers a free night’s stay in a four or five-star hotel throughout the summer, have seen a 39% increase in stopover visitors in the first six months of 2017 compared with the same period last year.
The relaxing of rules means visitors no longer have to obtain a visa in advance or pay a $20 fee at Doha’s Hamad International airport. Under the new arrangements, a multi-visit visa will be issued to travellers whose passports have a minimum of six-month’s validity and a return or onward ticket.
Rashed Alqurese, chief marketing and promotion officer for Qatar Tourism Authority, said: “We will be launching our new ‘Qatar Welcomes the World’ campaign at WTM London. As Qatar is now visa-free for citizens of more than 80 countries, we are excited to spread this message.”
He added that the changes to the visa requirement “qualifies Qatar to be the most open country in the region, making it easier than ever before for visitors to discover the destination’s renowned hospitality, cultural heritage and natural treasures.”
Travellers from countries not covered by the visa waiver scheme can use a free transit visa which covers stays from five hours to four days and is obtainable online at qatarvisaservice.com.
Qatar’s international profile will be boosted further in 2018 with the opening of the National Museum of Qatar, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. The building’s interlocking disk construction is inspired by the desert rose. It will house Islamic and modern Arab art, pearls, historic photographic equipment, orientalism and a collection of traditional wooden dhow boats. Coins, costumes and weaponry will also feature.
Qatar’s international visitors have helped offset the fall in visits from neighbouring countries this year due to the on-going diplomatic row. Total visitor numbers were up 1% in the first half of 2017, but arrivals from Europe were up 10% and global leisure visitors were up 23%.