More tourists visit Qatar despite siege

 11 Nov 2017 - 3:59

More tourists visit Qatar despite siege
(file photo) Doha Corniche. Salim Matramkot © The Peninsula

By Irfan Bukhari / The Peninsula

Qatar is fast becoming a favourite destination for tourists as over 1.8 million visitors from various parts of the world visited the country this year till September 2017. According to recently released statistics on number of visitors from January to September 2017, a total of 1,805,138 people visited Qatar.
Qatar Monthly Statistics of September reveal that 703,029 (39%) visitors are from GCC countries while 136,387 (8%) people who visited Qatar are from other Arab countries.

According to fresh statistics, 474,182 (26%) were from Asia and Oceana, 345,207 (19%) from Europe, 115,924 (6%) from Americas and 30,409 (2%) from African countries. Despite the seige, hotel occupancy in all categories remained 57% in September 2017 while hotel apartment occupancy rate in the same month was 62%.

In  September this year, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) report “Tourism Performance Summary H1 2017,” had indicated healthy growth in tourism sector in the first half of 2017 with visitor arrivals from Europe and the Americas increased by 10% (from 234,880 to 259,121) and 7% (from 77,974 to 83,240) respectively when compared to the first half of 2016.  The report also revealed that visitor arrivals from Asia, including Oceania, increased by 4% (352,469 in 2017) compared to the same period in 2016 (340,529).

Qatar Tourism Authority, the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Airways also introduced a free 96-hour transit visa in the last quarter of 2016. The report had also pointed out that the scheme had attracted a sizeable increase (39%) in stopover passengers at the Hamad International Airport in the first six months of the year.

In August this year, Qatar had eased its visa policies allowing citizens of 80 countries visa-free entry. With this announcement, Qatar had become the number one country in the region in terms of number of nationalities eligible to enter visa-free, making it the most open country in the region.  In September this year, in another move to facilitate visitors, Qatar made Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) available to visitors of all nationalities who held valid residence permits or visas from either the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Schengen countries, or the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Last week, the Cabinet approved a draft law on establishing the National Tourism Council. It stipulates that the National Tourism Council aims to achieve the best conditions for the implementation of the national strategy for tourism and its subsidiary programmes, in order to promote comprehensive development plans for tourism sector and organise and promote them internally and externally.