In response to the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Qatar Tourism (QT), in cooperation with its national aviation partner Qatar Airways, the Port Authority, Mwani, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), and other public and private sector partners, took several steps to effectively resume cruise tourism.
Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: "Thanks to the remarkable efforts of all our partners, we managed to successfully and safely resume cruise tourism, which is a crucial subsector that helps us showcase our authentic experiences to a large number of visitors within a short period of time.
“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 the latest travel safety regulations in coordination with stakeholders, Qatar Tourism successfully welcomed almost 58,000 passengers and crewmembers in the first half of the 2021-2022 cruise season, which started in early December and 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, QT identified among the top nationalities to arrive at Doha Port, including Belgium, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom. 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 superyacht 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.
In 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 the World’s Best Airport, 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.
Since the establishment of the cruise sector in 2015, Qatar Tourism has led sector partners to ensure Qatar emerges as a luxurious cruise destination. The Doha Port sits at the heart of Qatar’s cultural district, minutes away from leading national and cultural sites, and the Corniche promenade which serves iconic views of Doha’s skyline. Furthermore, this blooming interest in Qatar’s shores has also increased connectivity within the GCC, making it an integral shipping hub in the region.
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 of cruise companies (members), stakeholders, and travel agents. Qatar Tourism has also launched several initiatives and programmes to welcome global visitors for a safe experience, furthering its efforts to continually promote tourism. These efforts include the Qatar Clean programme, which promotes a healthy and safe environment in hospitality; an extensive Service Excellence programme to elevate the tourism experience at every stage of the visitor journey; the entity’s digital transformation including its 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™, a first in the region, which is a significant event for the national cruise sector. The grand terminal at the Doha Port, planned to open ahead of the tournament, will have the capacity to host two megaships at the same time. It will also offer various attractions, including an aquarium and art gallery. Additionally, in efforts led by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Mwani and Qatar Tourism; Qatar is 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.