Qatar Tourism and Mwani Qatar announced the return of cruise tourism with the start of the 2021/22 season. "MSC Virtuosa" made its first voyage to Qatar on Thursday, bringing around 4,600 visitors to Doha.
The return of cruise tourism comes as Qatar resumes holding in-person events and festivals. The winter season is particularly busy, with the line-up including FIFA Arab Cup, Qatar International Food Festival (QIFF) 2021, Qatar Live Festival, and Light & Laser shows on the Corniche.
HE Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker, stated: "The return of the cruise tourism, is a testament to the tremendous efforts of all our partners, and helps put us firmly back on the path of travel recovery. Cruise is an important subsector of tourism, allowing large numbers of visitors to discover Doha and its offerings within a short period, turning them into ambassadors of the destination and contributing to increased tourism spend."
He added: "The current cruise season is expected to be the busiest, with the arrival of around 78 cruises. This includes 11 cruise ships making maiden voyages to Doha, 11 turnaround voyages and 10 ships that will dock in Doha Port. With the opening of the permanent passenger terminal at Doha Port, we expect to witness a growth in cruise visits in the coming period, particularly in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 ."
He concluded: "We have worked tirelessly with our partners to ensure safety protocols in line with the strict guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health are followed. The safety of our community and our visitors is paramount, and these protocols will also be applied to passengers and crew members on all cruise ships."
Cruise tourism came to a halt with the pandemic by end of February 2020. To assuage concerns, the Ministry of Public Health has put in place special protocols for travellers arriving to or from Qatar on cruise ships.
The cruise season 2019/20 witnessed the opening of the temporary passenger terminal spanning on an area of 6,000 square meters. Doha Port has also completed several developments works contributing to promoting the growth of cruise tourism, supporting Qatar Tourism's efforts to attract international cruise ships and companies, and strengthening Qatar's position on the cruise destinations map in the region.
Mwani Qatar Chief Executive Officer, Capt. Abdulla Mohamed Al Khanji said: "We are pleased with the successful restart of activities of cruise tourism and returning to receive visitors and guests at Doha Port after a 19-month absence due to COVID-19 limitations. Many health and safety procedures put in place in coordination with the stakeholders to ensure the safety of the community and to secure an enjoyable and safe travel experience for tourists, starting from the moment the cruise ships arrive until they leave the quayside".
He added: "Qatar's popularity as an attractive tourist destination in the region is increasing year after year, as the number of cruises and passengers has increased by more than 6 times in less than 5 seasons. We at Mwani Qatar are committed to supporting and developing the tourism sector in the country, by enhancing services, understanding the requirements of cruise lines and meeting their operational needs, thus contributing to laying the foundations for a well-established cruise industry in line with the Ministry of Transport's strategic plan".
He concluded: "Doha Port redevelopment, which is nearing completion, will establish a pioneering infrastructure in the cruise ship sector that contributes to providing high-quality services in line with the highest international standards, thus consolidating Qatar's position as a preferred destination for cruise travelers in the region".
Qatar Tourism recently 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, travel agents. As part of its promotional efforts, Qatar Tourism has recently launched its international promotional campaign "Experience a World Beyond".
The cruise tourism sector has achieved continuous and remarkable growth in the years prior to the pandemic, with collaboration among public and private sector partners. The 2019/20 cruise season witnessed the arrival of 207,000 visitors, while the 2018/19 season achieved growth of 121 percent in the number of cruises passengers, an increase in the number of cruise ships, with more than 140,000 passengers arriving aboard 44 ships.