Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) signed on Friday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with German Aida Cruises and Italian Costa Cruises to establish a partnership aimed at developing cruise tourism with the State of Qatar.
The MoU also includes the possibility of cooperation to build attractive packages and special services dedicated to Costa Cruises and Aida guests, in addition to joint communications, co-marketing actions and familiarisation trips.
The initiative will focus on Doha, which already provides a state-of-the-art cruise terminal, and aims at building a strong relationship between the cruise lines and Qatar in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Costa Mediterranea will inaugurate Costa’s presence in Qatar with one call set on March 6, 2019, while the fleet flagship Costa Diadema will offer 16 calls to Doha during her seven-day 2019-2020 winter programme.
The luxury AIDAprima is holding port bookings for eight calls in Doha during the 2018-2019 season and will make several more calls in the 2019-2020 season.
Between them, the two cruise lines will potentially bring up to 45,000 passengers in the coming season.
The signing ceremony was held on the sidelines of the Qatar-Germany Business and Investment Forum held in Berlin on Friday, further strengthening QTA’s ties with industry stakeholders to promote Qatar as an attractive tourism destination in the region.
“We are delighted to announce these new developments and additions to the fleet of cruise ships arriving at Doha Port over the coming seasons.
“After the exceptional success of the last cruise season, this agreement is another step towards our target of 200,000 cruise visitors by 2020, and we are looking forward to work with our partners on the ground in Qatar to provide unforgettable experiences to each and every passenger,” said QTA acting chairman Hassan al-Ibrahim.
He added: “Qatar’s authentic experiences and traditional hospitality have proven immensely popular with cruise visitors, and we believe that once Aida and Costa, two leading brands in the industry, have made these initial visits, Qatar will be a frequent destination on their itineraries.”
Costa Cruises and Aida Cruises were the first cruise companies in the world to start regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf back in 2006. During winter seasons, both companies offer one-week cruises in the area with the ‘fly&cruise’ formula. The majority of guests come from Europe with Germans for Aida, and Italians, French, Spanish, Austrian, and the Swiss for Costa.
“Costa Cruises is very well known and appreciated for being a pioneering company, constantly innovating its product in order to deliver guests an unforgettable cruise experience.
“Therefore, we are glad to explore the possibility to develop an interesting destination such as Qatar, which has a big potential for the cruise industry,” said Costa Cruises president Neil Palomba.
Aida Cruises president Felix Eichhorn added: “Qatar has been on our radar screen for quite a while. We are delighted to offer this up-and-coming cruise destination as an extra highlight to our guests next winter. The new itinerary for AIDAprima is a perfect addition to our successful Arabian Gulf programme. The warm welcome we received and the exceptional hospitality we experienced show us that we made the right decision in coming to Qatar.”
The strategic initiative follows a round of talks between QTA officials and major cruise lines, which shed a spotlight on Qatar’s growing tourism offering, and the significant efforts underway to provide cruise visitors with smooth and seamless experiences at the port of entry and throughout the country.
Qatar welcomed over 65,000 cruise passengers last season - a 39% increase from the 2016-2017 season. The majority of passengers were Germans and Italians.
The growth is supported by the Doha Port Redevelopment Project, which will convert the port at the heart of the capital’s cultural district into a permanent cruise terminal and tourist destination in its own right.
QTA said it is working with developers to ensure facilities are in place to receive two ships per day, and a new terminal is in the pipeline, expected for completion within 2020.