New Qatar visa rules uncalled for

Guest Writer

I,like many, was somewhat bemused when I learned last
week that the nationals of 33 countries will be forced to
apply for a visa before travelling to Qatar.
The new regulations, which are due to come in force on 1
May, effectively rule out visa on arrival for most nationalities
and apply to both business and leisure travellers, with the
former required to have their visas arranged by a local
sponsor, via Qatar’s Ministry of Interior.
It means that all 33 nationalities wishing to apply for a visa to
Qatar, which includes British and US citizens, will need to
provide bank statements for the last three months showing the
name and address of the applicant and proving they have at
least $1,300 in the account.
Well, let me tell you – that rules out most journalists travelling
to Qatar for a start! Most have spent most of their money at the
beginning of the month and are eternally broke.
So, this rule means less publicity for Qatar for starters.
Secondly, the regulations will pure and simply deter all travel to
Qatar. Let’s face it, the kingdom is not the most exciting place
on earth but has always provided a quick getaway from hectic
cities like Dubai due to its pleasant laid-back pace and growing
number of retreat-like hotels.
From a business travel point of view, it will no longer be
possible to pop over to Qatar for a meeting or event and many
won’t bother unless their trip is absolutely essential - the lowcost
carriers must be reeling.
I am also intrigued to know how these new visa rules will help
the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) achieve its objective of
increasing business and upscale leisure tourism by 20% over
the next fi ve years.
Speaking at the recent Fifth Finance and Investment Forum
in Paris, QTA Chairman Ahmed Al Nuaimi said: “We will look
to exploit the tremendous economic growth achieved in the
State of Qatar as well as the convenience of our geographical
location at the cross roads between East and West.”
He noted that contributing to the growth of tourism in Qatar was
the tremendous economic expansion witnessed in the country,
which had attracted large numbers of visitors across different
sectors and markets including oil and gas, real estate, banking
and fi nance, education, research, sports and entertainment
“This has led to the rise of the State of Qatar becoming the
ideal destination for doing business in the region. More than
90% of the visitors come to Qatar for business, conferences
and trade,” he added.
Qatari authorities have also made clear their
plans to transform the Gulf state into a
premier global destination for meetings,
incentives, conferences and exhibitions
with many projects underway including
two new conference centres, cultural
projects and new hotels.
All of these initiatives will be to little or no
avail if the government pushes forward with
the draconian visa restrictions.
Let me know your thoughts.

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