13 Aug 2017 - 0:45
Visa-free entry to help FMCG segment & retailers post robust growth
By Satish Kanady / The Peninsula
Retailers, hospitality sector and the travel industry are upbeat about the Qatar’s game changing decision to grant visa-free entry to the country for some 80 nationalities. The industry leaders believe it will give an extra kick to the economy.
Ever since the Saudi-led countries had laid a siege to Qatar on June 5, the country has been seeking to build up its diplomatic and trade ties beyond the Gulf region. The visa scheme is just the latest in a series of measures aimed at preparing Qatar for greater economic independence in the long term. The latest decision is certainly a shot in the arm of Qatar, both in terms of political and economic aspects, market leaders told The Peninsula.
“The timing of the decision is important. Qatar’s inbound tourism sector normally picks up from September. We expect a huge inflow of tourists this year. We are busy working on this season’s packages”, said Manikantan AP, General Manager, Fal Travel Mart.
“It’s not just about doing away with the visa fee. When one of the richest countries in the world offers you a visa-free entry it matters a lot to the travelers”, he said. Enquiries with other tours and travel companies revealed their respective marketing teams are bringing in encouraging numbers to the strategy meeting tables.
Speaking to The Peninsula on Friday, leading business minds in the hospitality sector welcomed the decision with much delight. They said the visa-free entry will encourage more people to visit Qatar.
According to market watchers, the supply of hotel rooms and hotel apartments in Qatar surpassed 20,700 in 2016 following an outpour of hotel openings, leading to an increased supply of keys by 30 percent since 2014.
As per Qatar’s National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030, the coutnry is planning to invest $45bn in tourism projects over the next 14 years with eyes set on increasing overall annual arrivals to 7 million by 2030.
Currently, Qatar is the fastest growing destination within the region in terms of visitor arrivals, averaging 11.5 percent growth over the past 5 years
Qatar’s retail sector, especially the hypermarkets, is buoyed by the decision. Due to multiple reasons, Qatar’s retail market has been experiencing a lull for the past several months. The groundbreaking decision has lifted their spirits. Hypermarkets, mainly patronized by Asian expatriates, are projecting an estimated 10 to 15 percent jump in their businesses during the next seven months. The FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) segment is expected to witness a robust growth.
“Qatar hosts a considerable number of single workers. The visa-free entry decision gives an opportunity for their family members to join them and spend vacation. The new wave of visitors’ inflow will definitely give a boost to the retail market”, commented Shamsudheen Olakara, Chairman, Quality Group International.
Qatar’s 2017 growth projection is mainly driven by the country’s non-hydrocarbon secretor. The expected revival in the service sector is expected to further accelerate the sector growth.
According to Qatar’s Economic Outlook 2016-2018, released by the Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics (MDPS), the country’s, the non-hydrocarbon sector will continue to account for most of the economy’s expansion.