The biggest shopping festival in the Middle Eastern country, Shop Qatar, has been able to attract more regional and international visitors due to the latest visa facilitation measures that have been implemented by the authorities.
25,000 vouchers were registered in only the first five days of the festival, compared to 21,000 in 2017.
The Shop Qatar festival started on January 7 and it will end on February 7. This is the second edition, under the slogan “A Brand New Tradition”. While the first week of the festival (7–13 January) themed as ‘Arabian week’, the second week will be themed as the ‘Bollywood week’, which will host many entertainment shows and activities by artists from India.
According to Qatar Tourism Authority the new measures have had a great impact on the rise of visitors.
On August 2017, authorities in Doha had announced new visa facilitation measures, allowing citizens of 80 countries to enter Qatar visa-free. Citizens of those countries wishing to visit and experience Qatar did no longer need to apply or pay for visa. Instead, from then on, they have received a multi-entry waiver free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.
On the other hand on September 2016, Qatar’s Ministry of the Interior announced the issuance of free transit visas. Travelers who are in transit through Hamad International Airport, regardless of nationality, do not require a visa if they leave within 96 hours. They can apply for their free transit visa through any of Qatar Airways’ offices or online, and once approved, it is valid for a period of 90 days from the date of issuance.
Both measures seem to have attracted a lot of tourists not only for the Shop Qatar festival, but throughout the whole year. Only in the period between January and November in 2017, 34% more visitors have visited Qatar in comparison to the same period in 2016. Restaurants claim that ever since the measures started implementing, 20% of their clients have been foreigners.
The peninsular Arab country has been trying a lot in terms of tourism development during the past years, despite the blockade imposed by three of its neighboring countries. Only in 2018, Qatar Tourism Authority is planning to organize 130 business events, 28 of which are already organized to take place until April 2018.