Qatar announced to allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries to encourage air transport and tourism amid a two-month boycott imposed on the Gulf state by its neighbors.
Interior ministry official Mohamed Rashed al-Mazroui said the nationals of 80 countries would only need to present a valid passport for entry to the energy-rich Gulf state which is to host football’s 2022 World Cup.
The countries were not named and neither was the date from which the visa-free programme will take effect, but Qatari newspapers said it would apply mainly to Western nationals.
The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region. Qatar has flown in food supplies from Turkey and Iran and chartered new shipping routes via Oman to bring in construction materials but hotel occupancy rates have fallen with Saudis, a key source of tourism, barred by their government from visiting the country.
Visitors from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council usually account for almost half of all visitors to Qatar. Air links suspended by the four Arab states represented around 25 percent of flights by state-owned Qatar Airways, one of the region’s big three carriers.
On August 3, Qatar approved legislation allowing certain permanent residents to benefit from parts of the state’s generous welfare system, including education and health-care services, a first for the Gulf.
Under the law, children of Qatari women married to foreigners and people with special skills “needed by the state,” can benefit from the new status. Foreign workers from countries including India and Nepal account for around 90 percent of Qatar’s population of 2.7 million.