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Qatar Museums

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

As Gulf countries including Qatar try to increase their visitor numbers in the coming years, they’d do well to look east, toward India and China.

That’s the message resonating with hospitality industry experts this week at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai.

To court these tourists, the GCC may want to take a page from Europe, which has a Schengen system that allows travelers to visit multiple member countries with a single visa.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to a new Colliers International report presented at the ATM yesterday, this idea could work well for visitors from India and China.

Overcoming obstacles

Creating a visa that makes it easier for people to travel between all six Gulf countries isn’t a novel one.

In fact, the GCC has been studying this possibility for years, possibly decades.

Fadi Benne

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In the past, there have been several stumbling blocks, including a lack of a central electronic linkup between Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE.

But lower global oil prices may be the impetus energy-rich Gulf states need to overcome any former issues, given the visa’s potential to boost tourism, business, shopping travel and economic activities.

Other recommendations

In addition to establishing a Schengen-type visa, Colliers suggested that GCC governments launch cultural exchange programs, introduce visa-on-arrival for Indian and Chinese travelers and offer special shopping discounts to them.

Qatar already appears to have taken this advice to heart.

Qatar China Year of Culture 2016

Qatar China Year of Culture 2016

China was the 2016 Year of Culture partner. And the government is currently working to offer visas on arrival for visitors from China, India and Russia.

Meanwhile, hotels can do more by providing welcome kits and signage in guests’ native languages and honoring cultural sensitivities (such as not putting Chinese guests on the fourth floor or using white flowers in the lobby because these are associated with funerals).

Establishing targeted loyalty programs and special promotions for festival periods were also recommended.

ITU Pictures/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Local hotels appear to be on board with these suggestions.

However, at another recent conference, they pointed out that GCC visitors for now are the lion’s share of Qatar’s tourists.

They added that establishing new visitors streams would be a “medium-to-long term” goal.

Colliers concluded its report by saying:

“Should GCC cities focus their efforts on attracting Chinese tourists, this would ensure a perennial stream of hotel bed nights, even during economic downturns.”

Thoughts?

All photos by Ray Toh

Three Chinese naval vessels have arrived in Qatar for a five-day visit as part of a Gulf tour.

The fleet, which docked on Saturday, includes guided-missile destroyer warship Harbin, missile frigate Handan and supply ship Dongpinghu, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

In Doha, it was received warmly by Qatar’s navy, several Chinese expats living in Doha and the Chinese Ambassador to the Gulf state.

Ray Toh

Chinese warship in Qatar

CCTV reported Bai Yaoping, commander of the 24th escort fleet, as saying:

“During the visit, naval officers from the two countries will exchange views to enhance friendship and further learn from each other.”

Deeper defense relationship

China has previously expressed interest in stepping up arms sales to Qatar and other Gulf countries.

In 2014, the head of a Chinese missile manufacturer told Doha News, “The Middle East is a very important market, (and) we pay special attention to the GCC.”

CCTV reported that the ships traveled to Qatar after a five-day stop in Saudi Arabia.

The fleet will head to the UAE and Kuwait next.

Thoughts?

All photos by Mohammed Ismail

A four-day Chinese Festival that includes performances, food stalls, a tea house and puppet shows kicked off at the MIA Park last night.

The event, part of the Qatar – China Year of Culture, runs through Saturday, Nov. 5.

It is a collaborative effort between Qatar Museums, the Ministry of Culture of China and the Zhejiang Provincial Department of Culture.

Chinese Festival

Qatar Museums

Chinese Festival

In a statement, QM’s public and international relations director Mohammed Al Othman said:

“We are very excited to host this dynamic festival that promotes an understanding, celebration and appreciation of Chinese culture, traditions and people, in Qatar…

As the Qatar China Year of Culture draws to an end this December, we hope that visitors will take this opportunity to experience and engage with Chinese culture right here in Doha.”

Logistics

Visitors should note that parking at MIA will not be available through Saturday.

Instead, they can use the underground car park near Souq Waqif or try the Free Park & Ride service at the Old Doha Airport.

Festival opening times today and tomorrow are 2pm to 10pm. On Saturday, it goes from 10am to 10pm.

More information about the festival can be found here.

And the full schedule of kite-making workshops, Chinese language classes, performances and other offerings can be found here.

Thoughts?