Qatar revamps Hayya platform for visas
Launched during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, allowing entry to over a million visitors, Hayya will unify visa processes for tourists, GCC residents and companions traveling with GCC citizens (who are issued an ‘Authorisation Electronic Travel’ permit).
Hayya holders will be eligible for e-gate entry at Hamad International Airport. For those entering Qatar via land at the Abu Samra border, the Hayya Platform will provide a pre-registration option for faster entry for vehicles.
“Qatar’s national tourism strategy seeks to welcome over six million visitors a year by 2030,” Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker, said. “Already, Qatar is considered the most open country in terms of visa facilitation in the Middle East and the 8th most open globally, with more than 95 nationalities granted visa on arrival. We are pleased that the latest developments will further cement Qatar’s position as a leading tourism destination and will provide the opportunity for even more travellers to experience the country’s truly unique touristic offering.”
“We’ve shifted away from just transit passengers - people coming in with the ship and leaving with it - to having much more turn-around traffic: people who fly Qatar Airways, stay either before or after the cruise and bring much more value to the destination”
– Berthold Trenkel
The latest development reflects Qatar’s keenness to continue its investment in the tourism sector, which forms an important pillar to the economy, and reflects the longer-term strategic vision to position the country as the leading tourism destination in the region.
Qatar has continued to welcome record-breaking numbers of tourists in the first quarter of this year, TTN learned in a recent interview with Berthold Trenkel, Chief Operating Officer, Qatar Tourism. According to the latest statistics, the country witnessed a total of 3,516,939 air passengers in March this year, indicating an increase of 25 per cent, compared to 2,813,043 recorded during the same period in 2022.
For Qatar Tourism, the priority feeder markets remain Europe, India and China, while “the base load comes from the GCC region, which has completely bounced back compared to last year. The number of visitors who are now using our land borders have also allowed us to achieve absolute record numbers,” Trenkel says.
“When it comes to overall positioning, Doha is the top family destination in the Middle East - that’s our own niche and that’s where we are different compared to some of our competitors - and it has been quite successful.”
In terms of segments, Qatar Tourism has a lot of point-to-point traffic and is growing as a charter business with the first of its charter flights coming in earlier this year. “Transit or stopover business is also a big opportunity for us because Qatar Airways is one of the top 10 international airlines in the world and we can capitalise on that. Qatar Airways has invested in technology that helps travellers book a fully integrated stopover including hotels, transfers etc. Qatar Tourism has a team working closely with Qatar Airways where we push both stopover tourism and point to point traffic and we even align some of our commercials to support this.
“We’re leveraging the fact that Qatar Airways has strong relationships with all the tour operators and OTA’s around the world, and we’ve aligned our contracts or incentives with Qatar Airways,” Trenkelsays.
With Doha being announced as the Arab Tourism Capital of 2023, visitors can come to Qatar to enjoy world-class museums including the National Museum of Qatar and the recently re-opened Museum of Islamic Art. Qatar’s recently expanded hospitality and leisure landscape includes beaches and resorts, such as Fuwairit Kite Beach with its pristine shores, and West Bay Beach, which has been developed in the heart of the city. In addition, families can enjoy premium shopping and dining destinations such as Printemps and Place Vendôme, all while selecting their stay from a collection of newly opened and industry-leading international and home-grown hotels including The Ned Doha, Raffles and Fairmont Doha and The Outpost at Al Barari.
The Qatar Specialist Programme continues to thrive and has now become a mature programme with new languages like Korean being added to increase markets. The recent Destination Wedding Planner Congress was a big success and Qatar has already been host to a number of high profile weddings. “We’ve already have some meetings lined up for the end of the year and we hope to grow that business, so we’ve cleaned up our incentive programme.”
The cruise season, which is now wrapping up, has had a new record in terms of arrival numbers. “It should be considered that we didn’t have a full season last year due to FIFA World Cup Qatar.”
Mwani Qatar announced that Doha Port achieved a record tourist season in 2022-2023, witnessing the arrival of 273,666 visitors (passengers and crew) on board 55 cruise ships. The visitor numbers marked a 166 per cent increase, while the number of ships saw a jump of 62 per cent, compared to the 2021-2022 season. The 2022-2023 season saw the boarding of 19,400 tourists on trips starting from Doha, stressing the port’s role in promoting cruise tourism in line with the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030.
“We’ve shifted away from just transit passengers – people coming in with the ship and leaving with it - to having much more turn-around traffic: people who fly Qatar Airways, stay either before or after the cruise and bring much more value to the destination,” Trenkelsays.
“With these figures, we are certainly eating into the regional competition.”
The new passenger terminal at Doha Port accommodates up to 12,000 people a day. Its strategic location, being minutes away from some of Doha’s most popular attractions, is also an advantage as it brings visitors to some of the country’s popular attractions such as the National Museum of Qatar, Doha Corniche and Souq Waqif.