South Africa has now become a preferred tourism and family destination for many Qataris, according to ambassador Sa’ad Cachalia, who noted that the embassy has issued 604 visas to Qataris this year.
With more than 20 flights a week linking Qatar to South Africa, Cachalia said the country is also fast becoming the travel and leisure destination of choice for many people living in Qatar.
The ambassador noted that the number of visitors from Qatar increased by 66% between 2014 and 2015. During this year’s Ramadan, he said the embassy has been issuing visas to Qataris “on a daily basis.”
“The number of Qataris who are now visiting South Africa has increased tremendously,” Cachalia told Gulf Times yesterday.
He also said the embassy has observed an increase in the number of families travelling to South Africa recently. “And they are attracted to the sea, our food and lifestyle, the safaris, and hunting safaris – it’s an entire broad range of destinations and sights that attract them.”
Since President Jacob Zuma’s official visit to Qatar in May, the ambassador said the embassy has been working on easing policies in visa applications to make travel to South Africa “easy and convenient” for tourists.
“With travel being difficult in Europe, and the discrimination and unnecessary terror and horror attacks being perpetrated, people are now travelling to South Africa,” he also said.
Conversely, Cachalia emphasised on the steady growth of the South African expatriate community in Qatar.
“We’ve also seen a radical increase in the number of South Africans in Qatar over the last three or four years. The number has increased from 1,000 in 2012 and is now well over 5,000,” he said, adding that many of them are “well-spread” in the finance, oil and gas, construction, safety, medical (paramedics), teaching, and nursing sectors.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) indicated that travel and tourism in South Africa directly employs more people than the mining, communication services, automotive manufacturing, and chemicals and manufacturing sectors, South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in its ‘Investor’s Handbook 2013/14’.
“In addition to being a labour intensive industry, tourism holds potential to drive increases in export earnings in a trading environment that is generally less volatile than that of commodity exports,” the DTI stressed.
It added: “South Africa continues to focus on business tourism as an area with significant growth potential…South Africa remains among the top 15 ‘long-haul’ business events destinations globally, and is the premier business events destination in Africa.”
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