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Qatar among 10 Most Open Visa Countries in the World

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Qatar has become the most open country in the Middle East and the 8th most open in the world in terms of visa facilitation. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently updated its visa openness rankings, confirming Qatar’s recent visa facilitation improvements including allowing nationals of 88 countries to enter Qatar visa-free and free-of-charge.

Actions Qatar has taken to improve visa facilitation include introducing an online platform for efficient and transparent visa processing and e-visas, as well as a free 96-hour transit visa doubling the time stopover passengers can remain in the country.

As a result of these measures, Qatar’s visa openness ranking has leapt to 8th in the world from 177th back in 2014. Since the introduction of these changes, year-on-year arrivals from India have grown 18%, from China 43% and from Russia a huge 366%. None of these markets now need a visa to visit Qatar.

In 2014, Qatar commissioned a visa facilitation study for the country, which UNWTO prepared based on its global openness data. “Qatar has implemented and overachieved the recommendations of the study, setting an example by spearheading safe and seamless travel, enhancing the visitor experience and better placing itself to improve mobility for its citizens,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

“Openness and ease of access are crucial elements of the visitor experience. We have committed to making it a seamless experience, even as visitors plan their journey. We will continue to work with our partners on streamlining the immigration process at Qatar’s ports of entry, as well as ensuring that all visitor visas and visa procedures are electronic,” said Hassan Al Ibrahim, Qatar Tourism Authority’s chairman.

UNWTO measures the mobility of citizens based on their ability to travel seamlessly to other countries. While Qatar currently ranks 106th in the world in terms of mobility, 20 of the countries benefiting from the Qatari visa waiver are already reciprocating, enhancing the mobility of Qatar’s citizens.

Facilitating seamless travel is crucial to the continued promotion of tourism as a development vehicle and potential pillar of achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Qatar’s travel facilitation improvements coincide with progress made in visa facilitation worldwide. For example, Belarus recently made visa-free travel available for 30 days to citizens of 74 countries travelling through Minsk airport. UNWTO’s global visa openness index score has increased from 31 in 2014 to 37 in 2018.

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Tourism

International Tourist Arrivals Reach 1.4 billion Two Years Ahead of Forecasts

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International tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion according to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. UNWTO’s long term forecast issued in 2010 indicated the 1.4 billion mark would be reached in 2020, yet the remarkable growth of international arrivals in recent years has brought it two years ahead.

International tourist arrivals up 6% in 2018

UNWTO estimates that worldwide international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) increased 6% to 1.4 billion in 2018, clearly above the 3.7% growth registered in the global economy.

In relative terms, the Middle East (+10%), Africa (+7%), Asia and the Pacific and Europe (both at +6%) led growth in 2018. Arrivals to the Americas were below the world average (+3%).

“The growth of tourism in recent years confirms that the sector is today one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth and development. It is our responsibility to manage it in a sustainable manner and translate this expansion into real benefits for all countries, and particularly, to all local communities, creating opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship and leaving no one behind” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “This is why UNWTO is focussing 2019 on education, skills and job creation.”, he added.

UNWTO’s long-term forecast published in 2010 predicted the 1.4 billion mark of international tourist arrivals for 2020. Yet stronger economic growth, more affordable air travel, technological changes, new businesses models and greater visa facilitation around the word have accelerated growth in recent years.

Results by region

International tourist arrivals in Europe reached 713 million in 2018, a notable 6% increase over an exceptionally strong 2017. Growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe (+7%), Central and Eastern Europe (+6%) and Western Europe (+6%). Results in Northern Europe were flat due to the weakness of arrivals to the United Kingdom.

Asia and the Pacific (+6%) recorded 343 million international tourist arrivals in 2018. Arrivals in South-East Asia grew 7%, followed by North-East Asia (+6%) and South Asia (+5%). Oceania showed more moderate growth at +3%.

The Americas (+3%) welcomed 217 million international arrivals in 2018, with mixed results across destinations. Growth was led by North America (+4%), and followed by South America (+3%), while Central America and the Caribbean (both -2%) reached very mixed results, the latter reflecting the impact of the September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Data from Africa points to a 7% increase in 2018 (North Africa at +10% and Sub-Saharan +6%), reaching an estimated 67 million arrivals.

The Middle East (+10%) showed solid results last year consolidating its 2017 recovery, with international tourist arrivals reaching 64 million.

Growth expected to return to historical trends in 2019

Based on current trends, economic prospects and the UNWTO Confidence Index, UNWTO forecasts international arrivals to grow 3% to 4% next year, more in line with historic growth trends.

As a general backdrop, the stability of fuel prices tends to translate into affordable air travel while air connectivity continues to improve in many destinations, facilitating the diversification of source markets. Trends also show strong outbound travel from emerging markets, especially India and Russia but also from smaller Asian and Arab source markets.

At the same time, the global economic slowdown, the uncertainty related to the Brexit, as well as geopolitical and trade tensions may prompt a “wait and see” attitude among investors and travellers.

Overall, 2019 is expected to see the consolidation among consumers of emerging trends such as the quest for ‘travel to change and to show’, ‘the pursuit of healthy options’ such as walking, wellness and sports tourism, ‘multigenerational travel’ as a result of demographic changes and more responsible travel.

“Digitalisation, new business models, more affordable travel and societal changes are expected to continue shaping our sector, so both destination and companies need to adapt if they want to remain competitive”, added Pololikashvili.

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New Report on Health Tourism

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), together with the European Travel Commission (ETC) launched a new report on health tourism. Part of their joint research programme, the study is the first attempt to set a coherent conceptualization of health tourism and define the motivations behind travelers looking for health-related services.

Health, wellness and medical tourism have grown exponentially in recent years to become increasingly relevant in many destinations. Health tourism is an emerging, global, complex and rapidly changing segment that needs to be better understood by destinations willing to leverage opportunities and better address challenges.

‘Exploring Health Tourism’ proposes a comprehensive taxonomy with a consistent terminology to define and describe the intricate system of travelling for health purposes and provides a practical toolkit for National Tourism Organizations (NTOs) and Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) wanting to develop health tourism.

As defined in the report, health tourism covers those types of tourism which have as a primary motivation the contribution to physical, mental and/or spiritual health through medical and wellness-based activities.

The report sheds light on the factors shaping health tourism such as technological developments, personal health, data protection and urbanization. It also explores the market, the demand and the supply of health tourism and provides examples of marketing management. Finally, the study proposes a set of recommendations ranging from improved data collection and more accurate measurement to more accessible and sustainable health tourism calling for further partnerships.

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Finalists of the 15th UNWTO Awards Announced

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The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has announced the finalists to win the 15th UNWTO Awards, which recognize inspirational projects having made an invaluable contribution to advance sustainable tourism. The nominees are praised for contributing to advance the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Initiatives from Canada, Colombia, India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Philippines made it to the list of finalists for 2019’s UNWTO Awards, ranging from community-based tourism development and innovation-driven nature conservation to heritage tourism and promotion of accessible tourism.

For this edition the jury committee was made up of eight tourism experts from the public sector, private companies and universities:

  1. Ms. Diana Robino, Global Tourism Partnerships Lead, Mastercard
  2. Prof. Dimitrios Buhalis, Head of Department Tourism and Hospitality, Bournemouth University, United Kingdom (Affiliate Member)
  3. Mr. Eduardo Santander, Executive Director/CEO, European Travel Commission
  4. Mr. Istvan Ujhelyi, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, European Parliament
  5. Mr. Jae-sung Rhee, CEO, Seoul Tourism Organization (Affiliate Member)
  6. Ms. Judy Kepher-Gona, Founder & Director, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda – STTA Kenya
  7. Professor Kaye Chon, Dean and Chair Professor Walter Kwok Foundation Professor in International Hospitality Management School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Affiliate Member)
  8. Ms. Sally Davey, Director, Industry Affairs, Trip Advisor (Affiliate Member)

The UNWTO Awards recognize the contribution of public and private institutions, as well as NGOs, in the development of a more competitive, responsible and sustainable tourism sector that works towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 SDGs.

For the 15th year of the UNWTO Awards competition, a total of 190 applications from 71 countries were received in the three categories: Public Policy and Governance, Enterprises, and Non-Governmental Organizations.

List of Finalists (in alphabetical order):

UNWTO Award in Public Policy and Governance

  1. Tourism and Peace Programme, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Colombia
  2. Love San Sebastián, Live Donostia, San Sebastian Turismo & Convention Bureau, Spain
  3. Sustainability Whale Watching Charter, SPET – Turismo De Tenerife, Spain

UNWTO Award in Enterprises

  1. Community Impact by V Resorts, V Resorts (under the aegis of Bliss Inns Pvt. Ltd.), India
  2. Fighting food waste at sea: 4GOODFOOD programme, Costa Crociere S.p.A., Italy
  3. Masungi Georeserve: Innovations for Conservation, Masungi Georeserve Foundation, The Philippines

UNWTO Award in Non-Governmental Organizations

  1. Embracing Our Potential, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Canada
  2. Amuse Project, Fundacion Once, Spain
  3. Treadright Foundation Heritage Initiative, Treadright Foundation, Switzerland
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