WTO says Qatar now ranks as the eighth most open country in the world in terms of visa facilitation.

Despite the Saudi-led siege still in full swing, Qatar has become one of the easiest places to visit in the Middle East.

According to Forbes, the country’s reforms following the blockade imposed by its Arab neighbours have paid off. Qatar now allows nationals from 88 different countries to enter its borders without a visa and without paying a fee, including citizens from China and Russia.

The Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) reveals that arrivals from India grew by 18% in the first half of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017, while visitor numbers from China increased by 43% and from Russia by a whopping 366%. Experts state that the Saudi-led siege, which also includes the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, hasn’t worked. It has forced a nation to become more self-sufficient and welcoming to nations from right around the world.

“Qatar has fought back,” Forbes writes, pointing out that the country has built new trade links with nations worldwide and is fighting a canny diplomatic battle against its adversaries.

An unexpected consequence of the GCC dispute is that Qatar has now become one of the most open countries in the world to visitors.

Visa-free entry

Qatar reformed its visa rules soon after the row erupted, expanding the number of countries it offered visa-free entry to and extending the time period of transit visas for passengers wanting to take a look around the country between connecting flights.

The changes were initially implemented to fill more seats on Qatar Airways to ensure passengers used Hamad International Airport. However, it led to a tourism boom of citizens from different nations and the country has now quickly become “the easiest country in the region to visit”.

In its latest Visa Openness Report, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) has revealed that Qatar now ranks as the eighth most open in the world in terms of visa facilitation. This is a sharp jump because in 2014, it was down in 177th place worldwide.

Experts point out that Qatar has achieved a remarkable feat considering the Middle East is the least open region when it comes to visa requirements for travellers.

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Author

Ahmed Naser is a UK-based journalist with a deep understanding of the Middle East. Ahmed is a contributor to a wide range of regional publications in the Middle East. He works across print and digital media as a freelance editor and writer.

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