A Qatari delegation comprising five government and private sector parties led by the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), and Qatar Ports, participated in the Seatrade Cruise Global Expo and Conference, which concluded in Miami in the US last week.

Considered one of the largest and most significant events in the global cruise industry calendar, the Seatrade Cruise Global expo provides a valuable opportunity to directly promote cruise destinations, network with partners from around the world, and conclude agreements and deals with global cruise lines.

This year the participants from over 130 countries included more than 11,000 cruise industry leaders and 700 exhibitors.

Qatar's delegation to the conference also visited Cruise Terminal A in Miami Port, considered globally to be a model cruise port.

The delegation examined the facilities and services provided to passengers and cruise ships, taking note of the standards to be applied as Qatar develops its own temporary cruise terminals in Doha Port.

These temporary terminals will serve cruise passengers over the next few seasons until the full-time and permanent terminal is complete in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

CEO of Mwani Qatar, Capt Abdulla al-Khanji, said: "We are very pleased with the significant successes that have been achieved in securing Qatar's place on the global cruise map in the region and we look forward to further success in the coming seasons with our commitment to harnessing all logistical and technical capabilities and ensuring better service to our visitors in collaboration with all stakeholders."

He continued, "The important developments come at a time we are improving infrastructure and building the necessary facilities at Doha Port, which will become Qatar's gateway to marine tourism as part of the Ministry of Transport and Communications strategic plan aimed at supporting Qatar's marine tourism sector and enhance economic diversification in line with Qatar National Vision 2030"

He noted that Mwani Qatar's participation in Seatrade Cruise Global, along with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and QNTC has provided an ample opportunity to get a closer look at the latest experiences and best practices in the cruise industry and to hold fruitful meetings with a number of operators of cruise ships and ports around the world.

QNTC Chief Marketing Officer, Rashed al-Qurese, commented, "We are working with our partners at the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Mwani, Qatar Airways, and the various destination management companies to move to the next level in the development of the cruise industry, which will see Qatar emerging as a turnaround port for cruise ships during the 2019/2020 winter season.

"We have achieved a great deal in this respect, securing more reservations while supporting the development of the port, and coordinating logistical processes."

He added: "In addition to meeting prospective partners and making more deals, participating in Seatrade is critical to understanding the needs of cruise lines and ensuring they are met on the ground either at the port or through the tourism packages provided to passengers."

Maritime Transport Services Quality Director at the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Mohamed al-Mutawa, commented: "Seatrade Cruise Global is a great platform for sector leaders and key universal cruise operators to know Qatars potential and its resources, which qualify it to be featured in their cruise itineraries.

Doha Port plays a key role in boosting Qatar's ranking as an attractive tourist destination in the region through receiving cruise ships from around the world and providing a full range of resources.

This helps in the growth of such a key sector, thus achieving the economic diversity that is one of Qatar National Vision 2030s top goals."

He added, "Doha Port's growing role is a reflection of a comprehensive development operation that aims to transform it into a unique integrated tourism hub in the region. Dredging works to deepen its channel have been recently completed and this bolsters its capacity to accommodate the worlds largest cruise ships."

Al-Mutawa also hailed the roles played by Mwani Qatar, Qatar National Tourism Council and other stakeholders in converting Doha Port into a cruise hub in the region for inbound and outbound cruises, emphasising that all concerned parties pay great attention to providing high quality services to cruise ships, as well as all the necessary facilitations to ensure flexible passage and departure.

The cruise industry is one of six tourism segments which the National Tourism Sector Strategy focuses on.

It is also one of the fastest growing tourism segments, with Qatar seeing a 39% increase in the number of cruise passengers in 2017/2018. Growth is expected to double this season.

Ahead of the 2018/2019 season, QNTC signed a number of co-operation agreements, including with Germany's Aida Cruises and Italy's Costa Cruises.

Under these agreements, megaships AIDAPrima and Costa Mediterranea began docking at Doha Port during this season.

Statistics from the first three months of the 2018/2019 cruise season showed a marked increase in the number of cruise ship calls to Doha Port as well as the number of visitors from October through December 2018.

The number of calls grew by 129% compared to the same period the year before, with 43,649 cruise passengers visiting Doha in the three months compared to 18, 513 passengers in 2017 — a growth of 136 %.

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