Qatar tourism numbers still down from last year
Despite a stronger third quarter, Qatar has still seen fewer visitors so far this year than at the same time in 2015.
In a statement yesterday, the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) said the country received 2.18 million visitors from January to September 2016.
That’s down about 70,000 people from last year, when it counted 2.25 million by the end of September.
The difference is particularly stark because tourism grew 8 percent last year over the same period in 2014.
The slowdown comes at a time when officials are making a renewed push to bolster tourism as a way of diversifying the economy away from oil and gas.
The overall dip likely has to do with a sluggish first half of the year, when tourism numbers fell 6 percent to 1.4 million visitors.
Officials blamed this on Ramadan, a slow travel season for GCC residents, who account for a big chunk of Qatar’s tourists.
However, the numbers improved in August and September due to the annual Summer Festival and ensuing Eid Al Adha festivities, which attracted 100,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia alone last month.
Looking forward, Qatar expects to welcome its first ship on Oct. 18.
The new traffic from cruises is expected to prompt “modest increases” in visitor arrivals in October, QTA said in a statement.
Additionally, officials announced last month that visitors who have a layover in Qatar for five hours or more can now get a free four-day transit visa. This is regardless of nationality or airline.
And in the longer term, the country is planning to offer visas-on-arrival for visitors from China, India and Russia.