Qatar’s Ministry of Interior (MoI), Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and Qatar Airways today announced that Qatar will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries, effective immediately.
This news comes at the heel of Qatar’s announcement of the e-visa platform available to citizens of 242 countries in what seems to be a major foreign policy overhaul amid the Qatar crisis. Some are speculating that Qatar’s burst of new policies are aimed at turning Qatar away from its economic dependency on natural energy sources that is plaguing the middle-east meanwhile also trying to recover from the effects of the blockade on its economy.
Chief Tourism Development officer at QTA, Hassan Al Ibrahim reiterated part of the speculation by saying “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,” commented Al Ibrahim. “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.”
Al Ibrahim added, “With 80 countries eligible for a visa waiver, Qatar is now the most open country in the region and we are delighted to invite visitors to discover our renowned hospitality, cultural heritage and natural treasures.”
The visa facilitation is an important 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 27 September 2017, when Qatar hosts the official celebrations of World Tourism Day.
While the list was celebrated by many, some key country were left fuming as they were not included. The list includes India a majority in the expat population and not Bangladesh, Philippines and Pakistan.
The list also controversially only allows Lebanese citizen among the gulf and middle-east countries in the visa free entre list. Considering how much Kuwait, Oman and Iran have helped and are still helping Qatar in the ongoing crisis the list has irked some citizens of these countries.
Pakistan, Philippines and Bangladesh being some of them.
But Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), said the list was a result of a thorough study and that the number of countries eligible for visa waiver could still increase in the future.
“These nationalities were chosen in a very careful and scientific way considering certain factors such as passport strength and spending capacity. This is an ongoing process and more nationalities may be added in the future. Our main objective is to open Qatar to more visitors” said Al Ibrahim in response to a query during a press conference on Wednesday.
So nothing is set in stone yet. Meanwhile the fact that these countries were left out is still a sting that would heal fast. Qatar will consider all aspect and will surely accommodate more countries.