12 Aug 2017 - 1:58
New tourist visa policies buoy hotel industry
By Raynald C Rivera / The Peninsula
Recent steps taken by Qatar to facilitate tourist visas including the granting of visa-free entry to Qatar to some 80 nationalities is seen as a boon to the country’s booming hotel industry.
Advancements in tourist visa policies coupled with hotels’ venture into fresh previously unexplored markets are expected to give the hospitality sector its much needed shot in the arm.
Hotels across the country welcomed last Wednesday’s announcement with delight as it came just a month after the move to expand e-visa services which enables registered hotels and tourism establishments to make applications fully online for passengers of all airlines.
Currently there are 242 nationalities who are eligible to apply for tourist visa online. Hospitality establishments and tourism offices holding a valid licence with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) are able to fully complete their guests’ tourist visa applications online via a newly activated feature on www.qatarvisaservice.com.
“The introduction of e-visa services will enable us to become open to new markets. These new markets are supported through the vast network of Qatar Airways, Discover Qatar and Visit Qatar, as well as the extensive network of Global Sales Offices of hotel brands such as Minor Hotels Group,” Thomas Fehlbier, General Manager at Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, told The Peninsula.
Saeid Heidari, General Manager at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, said QTA’s policy to expand e-visa services is an effective way to maximise tourism by attracting more visitors to the country.
He said the new policies like visa on arrival for around 72 nationalities and visa-free entry will encourage more people to visit Qatar. “This will give a huge push to our business and to the Qatari economy in general. This is a clear example of how QTA has enhanced Qatar’s tourism opportunities, and contributed to the wider national economy,” said Heidari, adding since the decision to expand e-visa services, there had been a noticeable increase in demand which they expect to continue to grow in the coming months. Sharad Rattan, Executive Assistant Manager at Sharq Village & Spa a Ritz Carlton Hotel, expressed the same view, saying, “The recent initiative by Qatar Tourism Authority reduces the procedures for hotel and tourism establishments, strengthening the overall hospitality industry, encouraging local and foreign investment in the tourism sector and ensures consistency in the prominent level of quality and standards throughout the country.”
“The digitisation of the visa application process makes it faster by eliminating the time needed for personal visits to immigration offices. On the other hand, the fact that the hotel staff can do this for one or ten guests at a time makes it much more efficient. This not only further streamlines the process of welcoming tourist guests but can also contribute to a better customer experience during their earliest encounter with the hotel,” stressed Nawaf Ali Al Obaidly, General Manager at Sealine Beach Resort.
Al Obaidly added: “In a broader sense, the move further facilitates visitors’ access to the country – which is critical for achieving growth in the tourism industry, as it brings more convenience to individual tourists since the e-visa platform is linked to all airline booking platforms and, finally, it also indirectly helps our national economy grow.”
In September last year, and in partnership with Qatar Airways, QTA signed an agreement with VFS Global to create an online platform for processing visa applications. The platform was formally launched in June and last month, e-visa services was expanded to accept applications from travellers to Qatar aboard all airlines, as well as tourism and hospitality establishments in Qatar.
This week’s announcement to allow citizens of 80 countries visa-free entry was a landmark move, making Qatar the most open country in the region. Citizens of those 80 countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued.