Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways have announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries including India, effective immediately. Citizens of those countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket. Depending on the nationality of the visitor, the waiver will either be valid for 180 days, from the date of issue, and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver); or it will be valid for 30 days from the date of issue and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar with the possibility of applying for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days (multiple-entry waiver).
These developments come as part of a series of measures that Qatar has taken to facilitate visitor access to the country. Last month, Qatar launched an e-visa platform, through which travellers of all nationalities can apply for tourist and visitor visas with more efficiency and ease. The country is also considering further enhancements to its visa policy, such as waiving visa requirements for holders of a residence permit or a valid visa from the nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), United Kingdom, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Schengen countries. This waiver would allow eligible visitors to obtain an electronic travel authorisation by completing a simple online application at least 48 hours prior to travel.
Akbar Al baker, group chief executive, Qatar Airways, said, “This announcement places Qatar as the most open country in the region. This is a momentous occasion for Qatar, making the number of nationalities eligible to enter our country without a visa the highest in region, which is something that we are very proud of. Qatar Airways is the patriotic flag carrier for Qatar and as such we are extremely honoured to bring millions of people each year to our beautiful, welcoming and historic country. This important initiative from the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Tourism Authority will provide an opportunity to welcome even more visitors, from even more countries, to experience the many exciting attractions that await them.”
According to Hassan Al Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at QTA, visa facilitation is a critical component of the national tourism sector strategy, which QTA is currently reviewing in partnership with stakeholders from the public and private sectors. With renewed focus by the country’s leadership on diversifying the national economy, a revised strategy which empowers various players to boost the growth of tourism is set to be launched on September 27, 2017 when Qatar hosts the official celebrations of World Tourism Day.
Al Ibrahim said, “Easing entry to Qatar is a key enabler for the growth of Qatar’s tourism industry. With this announcement we are already turning the pages of the next chapter of Qatar’s journey towards 2030. Together with our partners in the public and private sectors, we have examined all of the elements needed to create a smooth and enticing experience that can attract visitors from around the world. There is no doubt that facilitating and streamlining access at all ports of entry are key factors in creating a positive first and lasting impression of Qatar.”
Brigadier Mohammed Al Ateeq, director general – department of passport and expatriates affairs, MoI, commented, “Together with our partners at QTA and Qatar Airways, we have been working to enhance our country’s visa policies and implement solutions to better facilitate travel to Qatar. Further enhancements are being studied and we look forward to announcing them in due course.”
In November 2016, Qatar had introduced a free transit visa, which allows passengers of all nationalities transiting in Qatar for a minimum of five hours to stay in Qatar for up to four days. In May 2017, QTA launched PlusQatar, an initiative to promote the country as a stopover destination, with the national carrier, Qatar Airways. These measures, along with international marketing, have resulted in a 39 per cent increase in the number of stopover visitors during the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.