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DOHA: An estimated QR4bn ($1.1bn) worth of cash is believed to have been withdrawn from the Automated Teller Machines (ATM) of banks since the Eid Al Adha holidays began.
Banking industry sources say the huge withdrawal of cash points to changing spending patterns in the country, among Qatari as well as expatriate communities, especially during long holidays.
An increasing number of Qatari families now prefers to spend holidays staying in hotels in the country. Some expatriate families in upper income brackets have also begun to follow this trend.
This was confirmed by sources in the hospitality industry, who say hotel occupancy rates have risen by an enormous 40 percent during the current holidays.
Banks are closed for five days for the festival from last Thursday and will reopen tomorrow, and so they have been regularly loading their ATMs with cash.
Some banks had their branches — located mostly at major shopping centres — open on Saturday and Sunday evenings to help customers with bearer cheques to complete their transactions.
According to banking industry sources, there is immense pressure on ATMs located at some of the major shopping centres due to the withdrawal spree in the past few days.
Banks this year loaded plenty of QR500 currency notes in their ATM networks anticipating huge withdrawals by customers, many of whom were expected to travel overseas during the weekend and so needed to buy foreign currencies.
Also, since the banks’ customer base has risen and with the cost of living climbing up, banks loaded more cash in their ATM networks during Eid Al Adha this year compared to the previous year.
A customer is allowed to withdraw from ATMs up to a maximum of QR10,000 in 24 hours.
Industry sources pointed out that the 24-hour call centres of banks received many complaints from customers during holidays, which were mostly about ATM cards having been lost or gobbled up by the machines.
There were more complaints about card losses and the banks took immediate steps to freeze them so that no one could misuse them, sources said.
As for increase in hotel occupancy rates, visitors from neighbouring GCC countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, are also said to have added to the rush.
Hotels with beach resorts and sea view have attracted larger numbers of guests from here and aboard, sources said.
Entertainment events lined up by the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) during the long Eid break, which have been attracting large crowds, are said to be another reason for the inflow of GCC tourists.
Some Qatari families who have their bread-winners employed in the government have booked hotel rooms for a week and more as Eid holidays in the government sector are for ten days, sources said.