Qatar: Hoteliers call for easing of tourist visa restrictions

As Qatar works to reposition itself as a key tourist destination, a number of local hotel officials have urged authorities to make it easier for visitors to come here on holiday from emerging markets such as China and South America.

During a recent hospitality summit held in Doha, managers running some of Qatar’s leading hotels expressed concern about the restrictions some visitors face when trying to come to the country.

While there is a visa-on-arrival system in place for citizens of 33 nations, the list does not include some key emerging tourist markets such as China, India and South American countries.

Visitors from these areas and several other nations must apply in advance for permission to come to Qatar, according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

This can be either be done through a friend or relative already living in Qatar, or through ahotel based here that is accredited by the MOI.

Calls for reform

Speaking at a panel discussion at the Hotelier Middle East Qatar Hospitality Summit last week, a number of people in the local hotel industry said that easing of current restrictions would attract more visitors to Qatar from emerging markets.

Hotelier Middle East’s website quotes Zeinab Hammoud, director of sales and marketing of Governor West Bay Suites & Residences, as saying at the discussion: “From China, there are a lot of people that want to come and Brazil is really growing, but visas are not easy to get.”

One proposal to tackle the issue included creating a separate visa categories for tourists, the website reports Safak Guvenc, general manager W Doha & Residences, as saying.

Last year, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) unveiled its new strategy to attract up to 7.4 million annual visitors to the state by 2030.

That’s more than twice the number of tourists who currently come to Qatar.

Some 2.83 million visitors made the trip here last year, up 8.2 percent on the previous year and nearly double the number who visited in 2009, according to figures released by QTA in February this year.

There was also a 20 percent increase in visitors from Asian countries, who at 782,904 people made up the second-largest segment after tourists from GCC countries last year.



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