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MOI

Egate service

E-gate services in Qatar were used some 865,000 times in the first three months of this year, officials have announced.

That’s compared to about a million usages in all of 2016, when e-gate used to cost an annual fee and require prior registration.

The numbers reflect a tremendous increase in demand since the service, which fast-tracks residents through immigration, was made free and available to most expats in December.

Officials are now urging Qatar residents to use the service when possible to speed up processing at the airport.

Expansion

The aim is to triple e-gate usage by the end of 2017 to some 3.5 million passengers, said Col. Mohammed Rashid Al Mazrouei, Director of Airport Passports Department.

Currently, there are 21 e-gates at departures, and 20 at arrivals. Each will be increased to 40 in the coming months, he said in a statement this week.

Jiseon Shin/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

To use the service, travelers should head to an electronic gate and present their Qatar IDs or passports. After passing through the first gate, they then offer a fingerprint or iris scan and then leave immigration.

The process usually takes about 10 seconds, the Ministry of Interior said.

It added that anyone who has trouble using the service can log biometric data like an iris or fingerprint scan at kiosks set up at HIA.

MOI

E-gate service

Free e-gate is part of larger efforts to automate most travel services within the airport, from bag weighing to boarding pass printing to boarding the aircraft.

The move should help with wait times, as well as reduce costs for operators.

HIA opened in 2014, but due to the rapid expansion of Qatar Airways has seen a surge in transit passengers and is already operating beyond capacity.

Do you use e-gate? Thoughts?

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar has once again been ranked among the top 10 most popular tourist destinations for Muslims around the world, according to a new report.

However, it dropped one place in this year’s Global Muslim Travel Index, switching with Saudi Arabia, where Muslims flock to perform umrah.

The index is compiled by Islamic travel company Crescentrating and credit card firm MasterCard.

Doha News

A RAF prayer rug on Doha’s Corniche

This year, they ranked 130 countries based on factors such as ease of travel for Muslims, access to halal restaurants and the provision of prayer rooms in airports, shopping malls and hotels.

Qatar was sixth out of 48 Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states.

For the seventh year in a row, Malaysia took the top spot in 2017. The UAE came in second place, Indonesia in third and Turkey in fourth.

Meanwhile, Singapore topped a separate list of non-majority Muslim countries, followed by Thailand and the UK.

How Qatar scored

Despite slipping in the rankings, Qatar’s score has not changed much from last year.

Omar Chatriwala

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In many areas, its numbers remained either the same or went up:

  • Prayer space access (100 in 2017 and 2016) and airport services (100 in 2017 and 2016);
  • Air connectivity (93 in 2017, 87.7 in 2016);
  • Halal dining options (90 in 2017 and 2016); and
  • Safe travel (90 in 2017 and 2016)

However, its already low score in the Muslim Visitors category dropped further, from 15.7 in 2016 to 14.3 this year.

This section calculates the percentage of Muslim visitors to Qatar.

The nation also continued to score poorly (26.2 in both 2017 and 2016) when it came to “Awareness and Reach Out.”

arwcheek / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

This category includes factors such as the availability of Muslim visitor guides, destination marketing targeted at Muslim travelers and what percentage of the population is Muslim in the country in question.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia did manage to improve its scores in several areas in the past year. This included in terms of Air Connectivity (81 in 2017; 69.5 in 2016) and in Awareness and Reach Out (37.5 in 2017; 31.2 in 2016.)

Conflicting reports

Qatar has been struggling to boost its tourism numbers in the last year, though Muslims do account for a big portion of their visitors.

In addition to CrescentRating, Qatar has fared well on other recent tourism indexes, in part because it is safe and stable in a region that is not.

Last month for example, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said Qatar has the second most competitive economy in the Middle East when it comes to travel and tourism.

Jameel Riaz/Flickr

The Museum of Islamic Art

And travel website Frommer’s has recently listed Doha as one of its top global destinations for 2017. It highlighted Qatar’s luxury hotels, its Museum of Islamic Art and Souq Waqif as things to check out.

But others have less positive things to say. Last year, Condé Nast Traveler listed Qatar as one of the world’s most unfriendliest destinations for tourists.

The designation came from a readers’ survey, which included complaints about the traffic and “rude” people in Doha.

Here’s the full CrescentRating report. Thoughts?

Indigo/Facebook

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Starting next month, low-cost carrier Indigo will begin flying daily non-stop to two popular Indian cities from Doha.

The budget airline’s new routes to Delhi and Mumbai should give residents a new cheaper option when flying to the subcontinent.

According to Indigo’s website, Flight 6E 1701 will leave Delhi at 1:50am and arrive in Doha at 3:30 am. The carrier will return on Flight 6E 1702, which will leave Doha at 1:30pm and arrive in Delhi at 8pm.

Brian Candy/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meanwhile, flight 6E 1708 will leave Mumbai at 11:20am and arrive in Doha at 12:30pm. Flight 6E1709 will make the return journey at 4:30am, arriving in Mumbai at 10:20am.

In a statement, Indigo’s president Aditya Ghosh said adding the Doha service is part of its growth strategy in the Middle East.

“Being an economic and cultural hub of Qatar, Doha attracts a lot of business and leisure tourists.

IndiGo has established itself as a preferred carrier on India-Gulf routes. We are hopeful that this daily service would also prove equally popular with our flyers.”

Competitors

Indians comprise Qatar’s largest demographic group, numbering more than 650,000 people, or about a quarter of the population.

India is also a popular tourist destination for residents.

Currently, Jet Airways and Qatar Airways already fly directly to Delhi seven days a week. But fares on both carriers for a one-week trip to Delhi starting May 5 average around QR1,750.

Arian Zweggers/Flickr

India Gate, New Delhi

Indigo conversely charges about QR1,000, though that price does not include amenities such as meal service or seat selection.

Competition is stiffer on the Mumbai route, which three airlines already fly direct to, including Jet, Qatar Airways and Air-India Express.

But once again, Indigo appears to have some of the lowest prices on offer (QR803 versus up to QR1,800).

According to local media reports, Indigo is planning to expand its Doha service to include more Indian cities in the future.

Are you excited about the new offering? Thoughts?