US travelers flock to Qatar amid global travel crisis

Written by By Colleen Long, CNN

With a tightening US travel ban in place, countries that hosted some of the first entrants to the Trump administration have become the magnets for droves of travelers looking to rejoin the family.

From Cuba to Qatar, looking for a quick getaway — and a chance to escape the Trump/US hysteria — the United States has once again become a hot spot for some travelers eager to visit.

In March, more than 19,000 passports were issued by Qatar to people seeking immediate entry, more than three times the normal number, CNN reported in August.

The surge in travel to and from Qatar marks a key point in the rapid expansion of the country since the Gulf nation was granted membership in the United Nations in 2002. Qatar has become a popular destination for foreign travelers looking to escape from the hot and humid southern hemisphere or from eastern Europe following the continent’s worst heatwave in decades

Gazprom producer on scene as Qatar hosts Trumps, Beckhams, Maris Sandiegis

The number of Chinese passport holders seeking entry to Qatar has tripled over the last two years, according to travel agency tour operator Al Hajer.

Some are from the United States, with total tourism, leisure and business travel from the United States to Qatar totalling nearly $1 billion, said a recent statement from Qatar Tourism Authority.

The President Donald Trump. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. embassy in Bahrain said this year that it was granting as many as 400 visas per day — compared to just 13 in 2016 — as more people from that country look to visit the country. The majority come from India, followed by the United Kingdom and Singapore.

In March, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon was scheduled to visit Taiwan to promote bilateral relations, while the Chinese Communist Party also announced that the number of Americans traveling to the region had increased by nearly four-fold in two years.

Six U.S. visas issued per day in Doha

In a video posted to the Chinese embassy’s social media accounts in July, Shannon said he was optimistic that a U.S.-China trade deal will benefit both nations and lead to Chinese tourists traveling to the United States.

The United States traditionally has ranked sixth among global destinations for Chinese tourists, and now accounts for eight percent of all Chinese travelers to North America, compared to just 0.02 percent in 2000, a CNN analysis of Chinese visa applications shows.

In July, tourists queued up outside the UK embassy in Doha to purchase a visa that allows them entrance to Qatar. Credit: Lorenzo Bevilaqua/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

A statement from the department of homeland security’s bureau of travel and border security said in June that US visa processing centers in Doha had received a record 4,000 visa applications the previous month.

At London’s Heathrow Airport, as many as six people are granted entry to the US per day, reported The Times. “These are records and require action,” said US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson in June.

When the US Embassy in Doha first opened in 1997, around 20 visas were issued per day. Fourteen years later, it recorded an unprecedented increase to 100.

Rates have dropped from 600 per day in 2014 and reached a low of 650 in 2016, as travel agents gained more information about the process, the department of homeland security said at the time.

“The increase in applications in 2015 is a positive result of the improved open communications channels we established with applicant agencies at the embassy,” said a spokesperson from the bureau of travel and border security at the time.

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