CATHERINE W GICHUKI
Qatar has initiated a number of steps to make itself one of the most open countries in the world and to ensure comprehensive development of the tourism sector in the country, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani has said.
"We have taken a number of measures in this direction, such as free transit visa for 96 hours to all nationalities and on-arrival visa for citizens of 80 countries. Another step is the e-notification system for people with residency or visa in the US, the UK, Schengen countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the GCC countries," the PM said inaugurating the World Tourism Day celebrations with the theme 'Sustainable Tourism, a Tool for Development'.
The event was attended by several dignitaries and officials of tourism institutions and associations from Qatar and abroad.
During the last two decades, the tourism industry has become one of the most important engines of growth and sustainable development in the world, the Prime Minister noted.
"Tourism is no longer a matter of available options for the country. It is one of the priorities in order to achieve comprehensive development, diversification of national economy and creation of job opportunities. In addition, tourism sector bridges different cultures in the world and disseminates values of tolerance and openness," he said.
A new National Tourism Council will be formed soon, which will oversee and integrate the efforts of key stakeholders in the tourism sector in order to provide clarity, direction and momentum for its growth, the PM added.
The Prime Minister said the celebration is particularly important this year as the country has implemented first Qatar National Strategy 2011 16 and completed the preparation of the second Qatar National Strategy 2017 22.
"The celebration comes at a time when efforts are being multiplied in order to reinforce the position of Qatar on the world map. Qatar considers tourism as one of the most important tools to achieve sustainable development and we have already achieved great deal of growth despite the economic and security challenges in the region," he said.
"We will comprehensively review all the strategies that have been implemented so far in order to meet the needs of Qatar," he added.
At the event, the Prime Minister also honoured the Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Taleb Rifai on the occasion of the end of his tenure.