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Posted On: 25 November 2008 09:40 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Confusion over tourist visas grips hotel industry

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A WEEK after the immigration authorities issued a moratorium on visit and tourist visas to hotels earlier this month, some of the hotels in Doha were able to get visas while others said they have been affected by the decision. The authorities had put a stop to issuing such visas from November 4 until December 4 in the beginning of November, as all the 5-star hotels have been booked to host a major development conference, beginning on November 29. An Immigration Department circular issued at the time read: “Tourist/Visit Visa processing has been stopped by the Immigration Department from November 4, 2008 for one month. Acceptance of applications will be resumed after the United Nations Conference, by December 5, 2008.” However, inquiries made yesterday revealed confusion prevailing as some hotels – of all categories - continued receiving visas even after the moratorium, while others have not been as lucky. Visa and reservation officers at the Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Four Seasons and Ramada said yesterday they were able to get visas for their guests just a week after receiving the industry-wide circular. “We got visas in the first two weeks of November. They were mostly for Europeans,” an official at the InterContinental Doha said. “Our visa officer, who goes to immigration every day, says one day all countries will be open at the immigration counter, then for two days only Europeans will be allowed or some other group. There is no fixed rule,” he added. Qatar allows nationals of 33 countries, in addition to GCC citizens, to get a visa on arrival. Hotels are issued tourist and visit visas on a condition that guests check in at the same hotel. Currently, there is a moratorium on all the hotels hosting delegates for the UN conference. But it seems the rule of getting visas depends on officer to officer at the immigration. “Trying to get a visa today or until November 27, depends on which officer you go to,” the visa officer at the Sharq Village & Spa said. Meanwhile, officials at the Millennium and La Cigale, both 5-stars, said they have not been able to secure visas for their guests since the moratorium though. “So what we are doing is processing business visas instead – a much stricter visa, but still,” La Cigale official said. And while the smaller hotels originally feared that the month-long hold on visas will affect their business, they are doing rather well thanks to no restriction of any kind for them. Al Maha Services at the Doha International Airport too said they are able to get visas for passengers.