The tourism sector in Qatar has achieved remarkable growth following the activation of the National Tourism Sector Strategy 2017-2023, Acting Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), Hassan al-Ibrahim said
In an interview with Al-Watan newspaper, al-Ibrahim added that Qatar has advanced its position to become the most open tourist destination in the Middle East region and to occupy eighth place in the world.
It is now among the three best areas in terms of maritime tourism worldwide, he said, attributing this achievement to the new visa policy which allows nationals of some 88 countries to enter Qatar visa-free and free-of-charge, and also to the free transit visa that is valid for up to 96 hours.
He explained that the "+Qatar" campaign has promoted Qatar as a transit destination and increased passengers wishing to stop in Qatar by 40%, in addition to creating new tourism models.
Qatar, he pointed out, is among the few countries that applied electronic visa to all countries.
He stressed that Qatar has made these achievements during a relatively short period of time, especially in light of the continuing unjust siege on the country, and that this has been possible because of the directives of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. He stressed that the siege was a catalyst and has resulted in accelerating the development of the tourism sector.
Al-Ibrahim added that tourism sector's contribution to the national economy is 6.7%, and the QTA is working on increasing this percentage in the coming years. He said the participation of the private sector in tourism development would be expanded, adding that a private company is setting up a "snow city" in Qatar.
Al-Ibrahim pointed out that the QTA has launched 13 representative offices in the target markets, including the major tourist markets in the world.
Last year, it opened representative offices in China, Russia and India, which represent more than a quarter of the world's population, he said, adding that opening of these representative offices has resulted in an increase in the number of visitors from these countries to Qatar during the third quarter of this year.
He described the maritime tourism sector as an integral part owing to Qatar's geographical position in the heart of the Arabian Gulf.
This sector is one of the most important factors in developing tourism companies in preparation for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he said, citing the use of some cruise ships to accommodate some of the fans during the event.
QTA acting chairman pointed out that maritime tourism has achieved a phenomenal growth as the number of visitors arriving by cruise ships has increased.
During the 2017-2018 season, there were 22 cruises, and Qatar received more than 65,000 visitors, a growth rate of 39% from the previous season, he said, adding that estimates indicate that during the current 2018-2019 season the number of tourists will reach 140,000, a record high of more than 155% compared with last season.
It is expected that it will reach 200,000 visitors in the 2019 season, he said.
By 2021-2022, QTA aims to receive 300,000 tourists, al-Ibrahim pointed out.
Qatar, he noted, has become one of the most attractive destinations for business tourism, conferences and exhibitions, which are witnessing a remarkable rise especially in the Indian and Chinese markets.
He stressed that the sport tourism is very important within the sector, stressing Qatar's ability to organise sports events in a distinctive way.
He pointed out that the QTA is working to make Qatar a global sports capital and not just for events.
It has focused on amateur and non-professional world championships, such as Ooredoo Marathon, the Desert Marathon and mind sports. Qatar has become one of the most important countries in attracting mind and recreational sports.
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