AFRICA HAS MUCH TO LEARN FROM BUSINESS SAVVY GULF STATES
(Posted 29th November 2016)
The State of Qatar has, effective 01st of November 2016, introduced free transit Visa (for qualifying travelers) to visit Doha for up to 96 hours, i.e. four days.
Both Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism have been the main drivers of the initiative and when booking tickets with Qatar Airways can travelers now decide if they would like to take advantage of the offer, either on their outbound or inbound journey.
Qatar, already hosting regular mega sports events, will be host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and to see the stadia gain shape alone will be something to behold, besides the many more attractions the island state has to offer, history, heritage, culture and cuisine among others.
To ensure passengers can make the most of the new transit visa, Qatar Airways has restructured its fares for international flights transiting through Hamad International Airport. This will allow passengers to have a free stopover in Doha without any additional charges to their ticket, either on the outbound or inbound journey.
Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: ‘Qatar Airways is proudly committed to making Doha a world-class tourist destination. Our collaboration with Qatar Tourism Authority in setting the new transit visa enables our passengers to explore the country and its hospitality. The tourism industry in Qatar is experiencing considerable growth inspired by the vision of our leadership for an economically diverse future. As a national flag-bearer and an ambassador of Qatar around the world, Qatar Airways is dedicated to providing passengers with their best experience before, during, and after their stay in our country‘.
Mr. Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA, said: ‘We have witnessed remarkable interest in the new transit visa scheme from passengers who anticipate a stopover in Qatar, and we expect this interest to translate into an increase in visitor arrivals over the coming months. Visa facilitation is an important factor in increasing the attractiveness of a destination, and we encourage investors and tourism business owners to capitalise on the opportunities presented by this development to diversify Qatar’s tourism products and services‘.
This development, similar to schemes in place by other Gulf countries keen to reel in tourist dollars, seems strangely alien to East African countries, where, apart from lamenting that the tourist numbers do not grow fast enough, little else is done to facilitate easier and most important cheaper entry.
With Visa fees for most travelers still at 50 US Dollars for a single entry and transit Visa too being charged for the measly periods of between 48 and 72 hours, it is obvious that the Gulf states, and many other countries around the world, have figured out what it takes to have travelers stay over whereas East Africa, in this regard and inspite of world class attractions, is still in its infancy.
And here is the challenge for tourism marketers and airlines alike, to take on board lessons from countries like Qatar, without re-inventing the proverbial wheel, and drop transit Visa charges, in fact drop Visa fees altogether to make the region the magnet for travelers it should be.
Meanwhile kudos to the Qatari authorities for taking this important step and here in our region it will be wait and see how authorities react, if at all that is.