Citizens of India, Russia and China will be granted tourist visas on arrival in Qatar, taking the number of countries whose nationals are eligible for this facility to 41, Qatar Airways (QA) Group chief executive Akbar al-Baker announced on Wednesday.
Qatar is presently finalising agreements with the governments of the three new entrants to the coveted list to implement the new system "in weeks", he said.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Ministry of Interior (MoI) and Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) officials , al-Baker said those who presently enjoy the visa-on-arrival facility include nationals of the USA, European countries and some South East Asian nations.
“The Ministry of Interior is putting the process in place because it needs the IT infrastructure to be activated; the MoI is aggressively working on that and it will make an announcement to this effect, I think just in weeks not months,” he noted.
The announcement comes after the recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Qatar and the state visit of a Qatari delegation to Russia, during which a number of bilateral agreements have been signed, according to QTA’s chief tourism development officer Hassan al-Ibrahim.
Al-Baker also led the signing of an agreement with QTA and leading provider of visa processing services VFS Global that will allow nationals of other countries around the world to visit Qatar on a tourist visa.
He said a new visa application system will come into effect between the first quarter and second quarter of next year.
Through VFS Global visitors will be able to apply online in minutes, track the application process, and receive their visas within 48 hours. VFS Global CEO Zubin Karkaria was also present.
QA passengers can apply directly at select international offices of the airline and its partners.
“It is our intention to showcase the many tourism offerings that can be experienced here in our beloved country Qatar,” al-Baker said. “This initiative is an improvement that we believe will lead to even greater numbers of visitors to Qatar to experience all that we have to offer.”
He described Qatar’s tourism as a vibrant and growing contributor to the national economy, noting an increase of 7% in the number of GCC visitors in the first six months this year compared to the same period in 2015.
Besides the various touristic destinations, tourism growth can be attributed to the increasing number of events that Qatar is hosting such as the Qatar International Food Festival, Qatar Summer Festival, and Eid festivals, among others, the top QA official said.
Al-Baker stressed that the agreement will significantly help Qatar raise its visitor arrivals from 2.9mn last year to more than 5mn in three years.
The agreement will enable Qatar to identify and implement the ideal visa solutions for visitors while capitalising on VFS Global’s expertise in developing multi-platform visa services, and QA’s extensive international footprint.
Al-Baker and Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Rashid al-Mazroui, Director of HIA Immigration Department for MoI, assured the public that inviting more visitors will not jeopardise the country’s security.
“MoI continuously strives to make government services as smooth and efficient as possible, while ensuring that Qatar’s security is not compromised,” Lieutenant Colonel al-Mazroui said.
“We are pleased to take developments in our tourist visa application services to the next level by working with our valued partners - QA and QTA. We believe this agreement will optimise resources as well as security while creating a positive impact on Qatar’s image and economy,” he added.
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