Qatar Tourism, in cooperation with Qatar Airways, port authority Mwani Qatar, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), and other public and private sector partners, took several steps to effectively resume cruise tourism in response to the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19

Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, HE Akbar Al Baker, said that thanks to the remarkable efforts of all their partners, they’ve managed to successfully and safely resume cruise tourism, which is a crucial sub-sector that helps them showcase the country’s authentic experiences to a large number of visitors within a short period of time.

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He said that the role of Mwani Qatar is highly commendable as they helped position Qatar as a popular destination for marine tourism in the region, within a short span of just six seasons.

We are now gearing up to witness a growth in passenger numbers, particularly in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, with the   opening of a permanent passenger terminal at Doha Port this summer.

By implementing travel safety regulations in coordination with stakeholders, Qatar Tourism successfully welcomed almost 58,000 passengers and crew members in the first half of the 2021-2022 cruise season, which started in early December and which will run until June 2022. At mid-season, a total of 18 cruise ships have docked at Doha Port, with 12 additional cruise calls expected by the end of the season. The port also received four maiden calls and four luxury ships during this season. This is the second season with overnight stay itineraries for cruise passengers, including a total of 13 turnarounds – during which passengers began and ended their journey in Qatar.

In the first three months of the current cruise season, Qatar Tourism identified Belgium, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom among the top nationalities to arrive at Doha Port. The number of visitors from the GCC countries has also grown in the current cruise season and is expected to increase further next year, in part through Qatar Tourism’s recent partnership with Emerald Cruises, to introduce new super yacht luxury cruises that offer eight-day itineraries with stops around the GCC region.

Local destination management companies such as Discover Qatar, Qatar International Tours and Al Tawfeeq Travels have been working closely with the arriving ships and travel agents to market tourism products, provide exceptional tours, and secure transportation for passengers.

Training programme for local tour guides

Cruise tourism 1In addition, Qatar Tourism’s Tour Guide Training Programme provides training designed for local tour guides that work with cruise passengers to ensure they are equipped to guide shore excursions, which are often condensed in a day and include large groups. The initiative is part of Qatar Tourism’s Service Excellence programme which aims to enhance the visitor experience at every touchpoint.

The cruise sector’s growth serves as an economic boost for Qatar through increased visitor spending and the creation of job and business opportunities. Incoming visitors at the new temporary passenger terminal receive the same level of service delivered at Hamad International Airport, including its seamless immigration and customs, foreign exchange counters, and taxi platform. Other sought-after offerings include a Qatar Duty Free store, waiting area for passengers and staff, along with a range of city tours services.

Tourism initiatives and programmes

In 2021, Qatar Tourism partnered with CLIA UK & Ireland, a division of CLIA-Cruise Lines International Association, to boost Qatar’s tourism sector via CLIA’s community. Qatar Tourism also launched several initiatives and programmes such as the Qatar Clean programme, to promote a healthy and safe environment in the hospitality sector; an extensive Service Excellence programme to elevate the tourism experience at every stage of the visitor journey; the digital transformation of the Visit Qatar website and mobile app; and the recently launched international promotional campaign, Experience a World Beyond.

All in all, Qatar’s cruise tourism is reviving despite the challenges it faced over the last two difficult years. It has met many milestones in its growth, including the number of ships and passengers docked at Qatar’s shore, increasing more than six folds in less than five seasons.

This current year has been the most exciting so far, as the country is preparing to host the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, which is a significant event for the national cruise sector. The grand terminal at the Doha Port, which will open ahead of the tournament, will have the capacity to host two mega ships at the same time. It will also offer various attractions, including an aquarium and art gallery.

The country is also set to introduce a unique cruise tourism experience during the tournament, offering two cruise ships from MSC Cruises as floating hotel accommodations for visiting fans during the month-long tournament.

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