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Blockade ends up driving more tourists to Qatar


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Gulf Times, 12 September 2017

The economic blockade on Qatar imposed by the Saudi-led bloc has resulted in more foreign tourists from other regions visiting the country in the first half of 2017, according to a Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) report.
In its “Tourism Performance Summary H1 2017,” QTA noted that tourism growth from other regions in the first half of 2017 remained solid with visitor arrivals from Europe and the Americas growing by 10% (from 234,880 to 259,121) and 7% (from 77,974 to 83,240) respectively compared to the same period last year.
The report showed that visitor arrivals from Asia, including Oceania, saw a 4% increase (352,469) compared to the same period in 2016 (340,529). Many Africans also visited the country from January to June, up by 4% compared to last year’s figure.
“This growth signals that our strategy to diversify its source markets and enhance its visitor experience is on track,” QTA’s chief tourism development officer Hassan al-Ibrahim said.
“The diplomatic dispute acts as a catalyst to further develop Qatar’s tourism industry, which was already undergoing a strategic shift towards diversifying products, services and source markets,” he added.
According to the report, Qatar received a total of 1.46mn visitors in the first half of the year, which translates to 1% increase compared to the same period in 2016.
In the “early months of 2016,” QTA saw a robust growth in visitor arrivals from various countries, “as a more stable oil price helped to stimulate a rebound in demand in the region.”
Citing the strong performance of cruise tourism, QTA said it registered a 1,000% increase in the number of cruise visitors throughout the 2016/17 season, which also contributed to growth at the beginning of the year. 
“In the past few months, Qatar has taken huge strides in implementing visa policies that will facilitate easy access to the country from dozens of new source markets,” al-Ibrahim stressed.
Apart from allowing visitors from all countries to apply for an e-visa (online visa application service), a new system granted 80 nationalities a visa-free entry to Qatar.
QTA, the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Airways also introduced a free 96-hour transit visa in the last quarter of 2016. 
The scheme attracted a sizeable increase (39%) in stopover passengers at the Hamad International Airport in the first six months of the year, the report said.
“While we expected this summer to be slower than usual due to the ongoing diplomatic dispute, we have been proud to see tourism establishments step up to ensure that all our visitors, wherever they are from, experience the authentic hospitality our country is renowned for,” al-Ibrahim pointed out. 
QTA is also set to unveil the ‘Next Chapter of the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030’ during the official World Tourism Day celebration in Doha on September 27.
Gulf Times
12 September
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