The Qatari government and Qatar Airways are now offering free stopovers and free transit visas for customers traveling through Doha. Since Nov 1, 2016, Qatar Airways transit visas are available for customers to enjoy up to 96 hours in Qatar. It is unknown, but I think this program hopes to boost tourism and revenue to a country which has always been oil dependent. Or maybe this is Doha taking small strides to mimic Dubai and diversify?
The free visa and stopover program is not replacing Qatar Airways transit accommodations program. The Transit accommodation program will remain available for customers with 8 to 24 hours layovers. The transit accommodation program is usually free for first and business class customers. Although free for premium customers, those on award tickets usually must pay $150+ for the transit accommodation program. Transit accommodations include a hotel, visa, a food voucher and transportation.
The Qatar Airways transit visa and free stopover program is only for passengers traveling on Qatar Airways. Travelers connecting in Qatar on other airlines will have to purchase a tourist visa. Tourist visas are available on arrival for 100 Qatari Rial. If traveling with family, each additional person is discounted to 50 Qatar Rial.
To partake in the free stopover and free Qatar Airways transit visa program, book your flights with Qatar Airways. After purchasing your ticket, apply for your Qatar transit visa 7 days prior to departure. If your visa is approved, it will be good for 90 days from date of issue for a maximum stay for 96 hours.
Do note, customers can stopover for free in Qatar on both one-way flights and round-trips flights. However only one stopover total is free. For those traveling from Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates only a outbound stop in Qatar will qualify. If traveling from one of the countries listed above on a one-way ticket, a transit visa will require purchase. It seems to me that Qatar is trying to boost tourism from outside the Gulf. Maybe this is Qatars attempt to improve their global image before the World Cup? And finally, it might be obvious but Qatar Airways transit visas are not for customers whose final destination is Qatar, you must travel beyond Doha to qualify.