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Qatar relaunches World Cup visa platform for tourism

Place Vendome Qatar Qatar Tourism
Qatar hopes the new visa portal will ease access for tourists hoping to visit attractions such as the Place Vendome mall
  • Qatar has revamped its Hayya online visa portal to boost tourism
  • It hopes to attract 6 million visitors a year by 2030
  • State is building on World Cup legacy with more sporting events

Qatar has relaunched the visa platform it used to welcome 1.4 million football fans during last year’s Fifa World Cup with a broader tourism remit, as it seeks to attract over six million visitors a year by 2030.

The new-look Hayya platform will become the single portal for all tourist and business visas to the Gulf state. 

Saeed Ali Al Kuwari, CEO of the Hayya platform, said the relaunch is part of a vision that centres on the sustainable legacy of the World Cup.

“Previously, the Hayya card allowed fans from around the world to enter Qatar to watch their favourite teams during the world’s biggest football event,” he said.

“Today, Hayya is the legacy which we build upon, inviting visitors from all corners of the earth to visit our country and enjoy its authenticity, history, culture, hospitality, natural beauty and much more.”

The move comes as Standard Chartered predicts that Qatar’s economic growth for 2023 is set to hit 4 percent. 

Although lower than 4.75 percent last year, the bank noted that the temporary growth slowdown is “not worrisome”, adding that Qatar will outperform other Gulf economies this year.

Muhannad Mukahall, CEO and head of corporate, commercial and institutional banking, Qatar at Standard Chartered, said that Qatar should be able to “successfully leverage” the World Cup to expand its tourism sector and its standing as a sporting hub. 

It is hosting 14 sporting events in 2023, including Formula 1, as part of the country’s plan to raise the tourism sector’s GDP contribution to 12 percent by 2030 from 7 percent currently. 

“With increased levels of uncertainty across the globe, no market will be immune to economic headwinds,” added Mukahall. “That said, the data shows us that Qatar is well-placed to be resilient to these challenges.”

Under the relaunch, Hayya holders will be enabled for e-gate entry at Hamad International Airport and a pre-registration option for those entering via the Abu Samra border.

“Already, Qatar is considered the most open country in terms of visa facilitation in the Middle East, with more than 95 nationalities granted visa on arrival,” said Akbar Al Baker, chairman of Qatar Tourism and CEO of Qatar Airways.

Qatar received nearly 730,000 visitors in January and February this year, a year-on-year increase of 347 percent.

Except for the months of the World Cup in November and December, February marked the highest number of international arrivals to Qatar over the past decade.

The celebrations of Kuwait National Day and Saudi Founding Day in the second half of February also significantly increased visitors arriving from both Gulf neighbours.

According to the Qatar Tourism figures, 22 percent of visitors to Qatar in the first two months of 2023 were from Saudi Arabia.