Amidst the boycott by neighbouring Arab countries, Qatar today announced a programme to allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries including Singapore and India to encourage tourism and air transport.
“The visa exemption scheme will make Qatar the most open country in the region,” Hassan al-Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development officer at Qatar Tourism Authority told reporters at a press conference in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
This step will entitle citizens from numerous countries in Europe and elsewhere, including Singapore, India, Lebanon, New Zealand, South Africa and the US to receive tourist visas on arrival at the Gulf State of Qatar.
Depending on the citizenship of the visitor, the waiver will may be valid for 180 days from the date of issue and allow the visitor to spend a total of 90 days in Qatar (multiple-entry waiver).
Alternatively, it could be valid for 30 days from the date of issue and entitle the visitor to spend up to 30 days in Qatar, with the possibility of applying for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days.
About 43 countries fall under the first category while 47 - including Singapore - fall under the second.
The gas-rich country is facing a boycott by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates since June 5, and accusations of supporting terrorism and of close ties to Iran. However, Doha denies the charges.
Since the boycott began, Qatar has sought to build up its diplomatic and trade ties beyond the Gulf region. The visa scheme is just the latest in a series of measures aimed at preparing Qatar for greater economic independence in the long term.
Foreign workers from countries including India and Nepal account for around 90 per cent of Qatar's population of 2.7 million.