Extending the validity of Hayya Card by a year provides easy access and an opportunity for visitors to revisit and further explore the wide range of tourism offerings in the country, industry experts have said. “After the World Cup, the country has provided multiple accesses for all nationalities so they can continue and complement their experience during the tournament,” Outing Qatar founder and managing director Mosaad Moustafa Eleiwa told Gulf Times.
Qatar welcomed more than 1.4mn visitors from different parts of the globe during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, giving them the opportunity to witness thrilling football matches and enjoy an array of entertainment and cultural events. Eleiwa lauded the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) latest decision, which allows Hayya Card holders, including their families and friends to visit Qatar until January 24, 2024, subject with a number of requirements.
He noted that the announcement also came at a time when the Arab Ministerial Council named Doha as the Arab Tourism Capital for 2023, further strengthening its position as a leading tourism destination in the region.
“Whether you are looking for sports, culture and arts, a city tour or just a visit, Doha now has a door for everything. Whatever your interest, you will find it here,” Eleiwa said, citing Qatar’s many tourism infrastructure and offerings.
He added that Qatar has also positioned itself as a favourite luxury destination, particularly hosting multiple five-star hotels, an efficient transportation system, and world-class infrastructure projects, which have won top global awards such as Hamad International Airport, among others. According to Eleiwa, Hayya Card holders in neighbouring GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, among others, have expressed interest to return to Qatar, especially this winter.
“By the way, it (enquiries) started already and I have a lot of friends who are coming to Doha soon either for business or through the Hayya Card, as well as those who want to experience the city. I expect more in the coming 10 days, packing and planning to visit Qatar again,” he said, adding that some of their interests include going for the safari experience and city tours, among other offerings. Many visitors, Eleiwa said, are anticipating the upcoming events and sports competitions scheduled to take place in Qatar this winter, including entertainment shows and live concerts.
Qatar is also set to host a series of exciting and crowd-puller events this winter, such as the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition, Qatar International Food Festival and Shop Qatar. The Qatar GKA Freestyle Kite World Cup 2023 is currently being held at Fuwairit Kite Beach and will conclude on February 4.
Other major events this winter include Qatar TotalEnergies Open (tennis) and Qatar ExxonMobil Open (tennis), both at Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex), Al Shaqab events at the Longines Outdoor Arena Longines Indoor Arena at Al Shaqab, and Ramadan Bazaar.
“Just from yesterday, we started getting calls from GCC nationals about their plan of return to Qatar,” he said, noting a positive response based on the new MoI decision and considering the various tourism offerings provided during the World Cup. Eleiwa said another unique offering include giving visitors the opportunity to visit and experience all the football stadiums via a customised tour by Outing Qatar even after the World Cup.
Tawfeeq Travel Group CEO Rehan Ali Syed described the Qatar government's decision to extend the validity of the Hayya Card until January 2024 as an "excellent initiative". "It is extremely important for Qatar to open up and ease the travel requirements for more tourists to visit the country. Tourism has always been one of the main revenue generators for any country, it will give the right push in all areas of business specially in hospitality and retail," he said, noting that the cruise season in Qatar started seeing an increasing number of visitors to Qatar.
Besides football and world-class stadiums, Syed said Qatar has a lot to offer and positioned itself as a country that has varied offerings for each and everyone whether it is for children, teenagers or adults. He said Qatar showcased its rich heritage, culture, hospitality, and most significantly, the safety aspects of the country. Tourists were keen on visiting the Museum of Islamic Art, National Museum of Qatar, heritage sites, Al Shaqab, Qatar National Library and the beautiful Souq Waqif. "The inland desert experience has also been a memorable one and we can see that during the shore excursion with the cruise, a visit to the inland sea and desert is in huge demand," he added.
Going forward, Syed said Qatar will become an ideal destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE). He added that corporates in Qatar are planning to hold a number of conferences in the near future.
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