One hundred days since its imposition, the siege has failed to hurt Qatar’s tourism sector expected to be one of the areas supposed to be hit hard by the unjust blockade, yet remains undaunted and demonstrates resilience in the past months.
The first half of this year saw growth in the number of tourists visiting Qatar with expectations of an increase in the coming period, especially after the announcement of the exemption of citizens of 80 countries to obtain a visa to enter the country.
Despite the siege, the tourism movement witnessed an increase in the number of tourists as shown by occupancy rates of hotels that are registered, especially during Eid Al Fitr holidays, where the occupancy rate was 95 percent.
Hotel occupancy rate increased by six percent from 53 percent in July last year to 59 percent in July this year, according to the 43rd edition of “Qatar: Monthly Statistics” released by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics.
Thanks to Qatar’s robust tourism strategy, the sector has countered and weathered the adverse effects of air, sea and land blockade. The country has taken a number of steps mainly relaxing its visa policies in addition to a host of air and hospitality packages and promotions as measures to boost tourism.
In a landmark move, the country further eased its visa policies allowing citizens of 80 countries visa-free entry since last month. Qatar has now the highest in the region in terms of number of nationalities eligible to enter visa-free, making it the most open country in the region. This is a significant step expected to drive tourism growth in the coming years.
Just two days ago, Qatar announced that starting September 15 it will issue visa-on-arrival to visitors from Morocco and Algeria who hold valid residence permits or visas from any of the following: the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Schengen countries, and the Gulf Co-operation Council countries.
In July, Qatar launched an e-visa platform, www.qatarvisaservice.com through which travellers of all nationalities can apply for tourist and visitor visas with more efficiency and ease. The e-visa services was also made available to tourism-related businesses allowing them to complete multiple applications at once making it easier to handle large groups through bulk payments.
According to Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) easing visitors’ access to the country is critical for achieving growth in the tourism industry, making a positive impact on the economy and enriching the society. The +Qatar stopover package, launched by QTA and Qatar Airways continued to be offered to transiting passengers throughout the summer. The package included a free nights stay in a 5- or 4- star hotel in Doha, alongside a free, 96-hour transit visa.
QTA has also launched campaigns to promote Qatar around the world such as a roadshow in Kuwait and Oman held in July to enhance Qatar’s position as a tourist destination. The recently concluded fourth Qatar Summer Festival was a success with thousands of people including tourists from Oman and Kuwait among other countries attending events and availing of various promotions.
Meanwhile, hotels see the siege as an opportunity to explore other markets and diversify their strategies to further attract more visitors. As Qatar hosts the World Tourism Day celebrations on September 27, the country will be unveiling the Next Chapter of Qatar’s National Tourism SectorStrategy, which outlines a five-year plan aimed at diversifying visitor source markets, as well as tourism products and services.
The Peninsula Qatar