A range of visa measures announced by Qatar Tourism (QT), formerly known as Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) and Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), have been widely welcomed by tourism industry professionals, as well as the country’s hospitality and retail operators.

Boosting tourism

The introduction of the free, 96-hour transit visa and +Qatar (an initiative to promote Qatar as a stopover destination by QT and Qatar Airways) has resulted in bringing close to 200,000 visitors to Qatar.

In August 2017, Qatar introduced visa waivers for citizens of 102 countries. Others can apply for an e-visa using the Hayya platform online, in addition to other tourist and visit visas. In 2022, Qatar introduced Hayya, the fan identification and an entry permit into Qatar during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, which resulted in bringing 1.4 mn international visitors to Qatar. It relaunched after the tournament allowing more access for tourists who require visas to enter Qatar. hayya.qa

Qatar is the safest country in the world, according to Numbeo’s Crime Index by Country 2023. Doha is ranked as the second safest city in the world, according to Numbeo’s Crime Index by City 2023. In recent years, Qatar and its capital city Doha have continued to retain their global distinction as one of the safest countries in the world. Qatar has taken the title as the world’s safest country at least five times on Numbeo since 2017. Qatar has been named the safest Arab country since 2015.

Doha has also been named among the top cities to live in, according to the World Best Cities 2023 rankings by Resonance Consultancy, a leading global advisor on placemaking, branding and marketing for the world’s best cities, districts, developments and destinations.

The Arab Ministerial Council for Tourism named Doha as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2023 during its 25th session at the Arab League General Secretariat in December 2022.

Qatar offers a wide range of authentic tourism experiences, in addition to hosting close to 
80 events annually, and is the first Middle Eastern country to host the FIFA World CupTM.

This year, the 2024 Qatar Calendar showcases more than 80 unique events, including the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ (12 January to 10 February 2024), World Aquatics Championships Doha 2024 (2 to 18 February) and the world’s largest technology conference, Web Summit Qatar 2024 (26 to 29 February), brought to the region for the very first time. Upcoming big events include the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ (15 April to 3 May), the 4th annual Qatar Economic Forum in partnership with Bloomberg (14 to 16 May), and Formula 1 Qatar Grand Prix 2024 (29 November to 1 December).

Tourist arrivals

Qatar achieved a significant milestone by welcoming over 4 mn visitors in 2023, achieving a five-year high.

Leading the influx of tourists to Qatar since the start of 2023 are visitors from Saudi Arabia, accounting for 25.3% of total international arrivals. They are followed by travellers from India with 10.4%, Germany with 4.1%, the UK with 3.9% and Kuwait with 3.5%.

Cruise industry

Qatar continues to impress as a major international tourism destination. The 2023–24 cruise season began in October 2023 and ends in April 2024, welcoming 81 cruise calls and approximately 350,000 passengers, making it the country’s biggest cruise season yet.

Cruise ships such as Norwegian Dawn and Le Bougainville will be making their debut in Qatar this season, with both ships operating as full homeporting vessels embarking from Doha.

Over the past few years, QT and Mwani Qatar, the organisations responsible for managing the country’s shipping terminals and seaports, have established a number of strong relationships with international cruise operators as well as with other specialists involved in the industry. This has proved to be of great importance as Qatar benefitted from cruise ships during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM, as a means of providing additional accommodation for fans and visitors. Two giant cruise ships served as floating hotels during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM at Doha Port. The cruise ships had a combined capacity of 4,000 rooms, which accommodated up to 9,400 people.

Cruise passengers can also avail the new transit visa. It includes the use of enhanced technology and close collaboration between cruise operators and security officials – a passenger manifest containing the passport details of passengers and crew will be shared with immigration officials 48 hours prior to a ship’s arrival in Qatar. This allows authorities to process all relevant information and clear passengers for entry before the ship’s berthing, enabling travellers to disembark within minutes and begin on-shore excursions.

QT’s projections show continued growth in the cruise tourism industry over the coming years. With the completion of the Doha Port redevelopment, and the associated capacity increase, which allows the port to receive two megaships at once, Qatar is expected to attract 500,000 cruise tourists by 2026.

The Next Chapter

On World Tourism Day 2017, held annually on
27 September, Qatar launched the Next Chapter of its National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, which charted the next five years of the tourism sector’s growth in Qatar. According to QT, the next chapter aims to attract 6 mn visitors to Qatar annually. It also aims to achieve a 72% occupancy rate across all hotel establishments, through a combination of increasing demand and diversifying the country’s tourist accommodation offering.

Visitor arrivals in Doha are projected to grow by 104% by 2025, making it the fastest-growing tourist destination among major cities worldwide. The city is expected to see more than 4.51 mn visitors in 2025.

Tourism is expected to play a greater role in Qatar’s economy as the sector’s share of the country’s GDP will be nearly QAR133.5 bn in 2028, reports the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Travel and tourism investment in Qatar may exceed 
QAR14.5 bn, or 4.2% of total investments in the country, in 2028.

Qatar Tourism (QT)

In 2018, The Amir, HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani issued Decision No 74 of 2018 establishing Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), cancelling QTA and the government committee to coordinate conferences and events. In 2021, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) was renamed Qatar Tourism (QT). QT promotes Qatar as a destination around the world, through its destination branding, international representation and participation at trade shows, and by developing a rich calendar of festivals and events. QT is growing internationally with representative offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Singapore and more cities. QT works in partnership with public and private stakeholders to achieve this mission by planning, regulating and promoting a sustainable and diverse tourism industry while perpetuating Qatar’s culture.

In 2014, Qatar launched the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy (QNTSS), which seeks to diversify the country’s tourism offering and increase the sector’s contribution to Qatar’s economy by 2030.

In 2016, Discover Qatar, the destination management company of Qatar Airways and partner of QT was established to advance Qatar as a premium tourist destination. discoverqatar.qa

For more information, visit visitqatar.qa or qatartourism.com