Immigration policies and initiatives launched by the Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) have helped the country witness a “positive trend” this summer season, according to an industry expert.
“Thanks to the marketing and promotional programmes of QNTC, as well as the government’s easing of visa policies for more than 80 countries, these initiatives have given more tourists the chance to come to Qatar and experience Arab hospitality,” Al Tawfeeq Travel country head - Qatar Rehan Ali Syed told Gulf Times.
“It’s not just about going outbound. While there are people going out of the country this time of the year, at the same time, initiatives like QNTC’s ‘Summer in Qatar’ (SiQ) are keeping a lot of people in Qatar very busy with many different activities happening around, especially inside the malls, so this summer is witnessing a very positive trend,” he said.
In May, QNTC secretary-general and Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Akbar al-Baker announced the launch of SiQ – which is described as “Qatar’s biggest summer programme” and runs until August 16.
HE al-Baker said QNTC’s main objective this summer season “is to bring public and private stakeholders together under one summer theme campaign that can be packaged to both citizens and residents of Qatar, along with attracting international travellers to showcase what our lovely country has to offer.”
Asked about outbound tourism, Syed said there is a trend among younger people in Qatar who are seeking “new, alternative destinations”, such as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as Greece.
“There is a mix of younger expatriates and Qataris who are exploring other destinations and new places as alternatives to popular vacation spots in Europe and the US. The new generation wants something different; there is a surge among younger tourists who want to go to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“These are the new, key destinations coming up for the youth, as well as for a lot of families. While Greece does not offer visa on arrival to residents here, it is still a popular destination for Qatar’s younger audience. Lebanon’s beaches and mountains, as well as its mixed weather, are also attracting a lot of tourists from Qatar,” Syed pointed out.
He continued, “Also, a lot of Asian expatriates such as Indians and Filipinos, among several other nationalities, also prefer these destinations - especially those who cannot get visas quickly. So, they go to these countries, which offer visa on arrival for tourists with a residency permit in Qatar.
With schools closing for the summer, Syed said there is a big demand among expatriates to go back home for their annual vacation. Similarly, Qatari citizens want to go to Turkey and other European countries, as well as "other big destinations” this summer season, he said.
“As a lot of people want to go to Europe, many embassies are witnessing a huge rush right now. But when people don’t get visas to Europe, some of them opt for the US because they usually have five- or 10-year visas,” Syed added.