Secretary-General of World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Dr Taleb Rifai stressed that the Gulf crisis did not affect the flow of international visitors to Qatar, expecting that the state is going to attract more than 6mn tourists a year, which will reflect positively on the country's GDP.
In an interview to a Qatari newspaper, Rifai said that there is a national will to leverage tourism to be one of the factors of sustainable development. He added that Qatar has two very important things to consider for the consolidation of the tourist act -- the first is the ability to welcome and the second is the proficiency in organising events.
The combination of hospitality and high professionalism qualifies Qatar to be in a very advanced place in the field of tourism, he added.
Speaking about Doha's victory in hosting World Tourism Day celebrations, he pointed out that this decision was taken two years ago in Colombia. He stressed that the decision of host nation was made scientifically and objectively, and without any influence or political pressure from any entity or state.
Rifai said that this event has had a great impact on the tourism sector, pointing out that the Qatari tourism industry has never been affected by the Gulf siege and that Qatar continues to receive large numbers of international tourists. Moreover, he pointed out that the World Tourism Organisation does not have any indicators confirming the decline of global tourism to Qatar, but the only decline is in the number of tourists of neighbouring countries, adding that influx of tourists from Asian and European countries continue to Doha.
Qatar, he said, is facing a challenge because of the outcomes of the siege and it began to think practically and logically of diversifying the sources of tourism, such as allowing visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries. The secretary-general underlined that tourists from all over the world are no longer willing to go to embassies to get visas for two or three weeks, so Qatar is now a very advanced country in the region.
The contribution of the sector to the economy of Qatar is estimated at 3%, but the policies and legislations adopted by the state to enhance tourism will contribute to the GDP, especially since there is a desire to employ tourism as a factor of sustainable development, he pointed out.
The aviation sector is closely linked to tourism, Rifai said, noting Qatar Airways' role in strengthening the tourism sector. This, in turn, made Doha a meeting centre for the world, a qualitative tourist destination and a hub for international transit. More importantly, he emphasised, the free 96-hour transit visa for all nationalities and other travel policies will attract many visitors.
He also noted Qatar's tourism infrastructure, which is well-established, strong and advanced, will be able to accommodate large numbers of visitors.
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