Qatar Airways, Qatar Tourism Authority and Qatar’s Ministry of Interior announced yesterday it would be implementing a revised tourism visa scheme for passengers transiting through the country.

The new transit visas will allow passengers with a minimum transit time of five hours in Hamad International Airport to stay in Qatar for up to 96 hours (four days) without the need for prior application. The revised rules will double the amount of time visitors can spend in the country, which enabled visitors to stay for up to 48 hours with a layover of at least eight hours.

Designed to promote Qatar as a stopover destination, the new visa regulations will make stopovers more attractive to Qatar Airways’ global passengers while also enhancing the local economy and tourism appeal of the country. The transit visa is free of charge and can be obtained on arrival at Hamad International Airport for passengers of all nationalities following confirmation of an onward journey and completion of passport control procedures.

“Qatar Airways serves millions of people from around the world as they journey across our network of more than 150 destinations,” said Akbar Al Baker, the carrier’s group CEO. “Whether travelling for business or leisure, we want to enrich the journey of all our passengers and are restructuring our fares to reflect this initiative and to promote stopovers to travellers.”

Announced on the eve of World Tourism Day, the development follows recent announcements of a new process designed to speed up the entry process of tourists arriving in Qatar on board cruise ships, and the signing of an agreement with technology services specialist VFS Global to develop a new, more transparent and expeditious tourist visa application system.

Speaking about the announcement, UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, “Promoting visa facilitation is a priority for tourism development worldwide and a key element in the competitiveness of tourism destinations… This is the third significant travel facilitation announcement from Qatar in the space of just one month. We are very pleased to see that the work conducted by the UNWTO with Qatar on visa facilitation is yielding results and trust that these will result in an increase of visitors to Qatar.”

Approximately 30 million passengers currently pass through Hamad International Airport each year.