The new free transit visa scheme comes into effect on Tuesday, Qatar Airways and Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) have announced.
Under the new system, travellers with layovers of five hours or more at Hamad International Airport (HIA) can request for a complimentary transit visa. The scheme will allow transiting passengers of all nationalities to enter Qatar for up to 96 hours in between flights.
All visas are to be granted at the sole discretion of the Ministry of Interior (MoI).
The initiative to introduce the free transit visa is the result of collaboration between Qatar Airways and QTA to position the country as a tourist-friendly destination and attract more international visitors, the Doha-based carrier said in a press statement yesterday.
The scheme was first announced in September by Qatar Airways, QTA and the MoI. Last week, Gulf Times reported – citing a QTA statement – that the new transit visa scheme was in the process of being put into effect.
Passengers can apply for their free transit visa through any of Qatar Airways’ offices or online. To be eligible for the transit visa, passengers must have a confirmed ticket for a journey into Qatar, with a confirmed onward journey out of the country on a Qatar Airways-operated flight.
To ensure that passengers make the most of the new transit visa, Qatar Airways said it 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. However, passengers travelling from the GCC and Middle East on return tickets will be able to take a stopover in Doha on their outbound journey only without additional charges,” the statement explained.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive 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.”
Hassan al-Ibrahim, chief tourism development officer at QTA, added: “We have witnessed remarkable interest in the new transit visa scheme from passengers who anticipate a stopover in Qatar, and 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.”
To apply for a free transit visa, passengers must hold a passport that is valid for a minimum of six months from the time of arrival in Qatar. A valid email is also required to facilitate the visa process, which can be applied for a minimum of seven days (excluding public holidays) prior to arrival in Qatar and a maximum of 90 days.
Once approved, the transit visa will be valid for 90 days from the date of issuance and meant for a single entry into Qatar. Passengers must hold a copy of the pre-approved transit visa at the time of boarding at their airport of origin as well as upon arrival into Qatar.
To maximise on their transit through Qatar, visitors can explore Discover Qatar stopover packages offered by Qatar Airways Holidays. These include desert safaris, city tours, visits to Katara – the Cultural Village, Souq Waqif, The Pearl-Qatar, museum and art gallery visits, architectural tours and hotel bookings, the statement adds.