* 11 cruise liners will make their maiden calls to Doha with same number of turnaround calls and 10 ships docking overnight in Doha Port
Qatar Tourism and Mwani Qatar have announced the return of cruise tourism with the start of the 2021/22 season, which is expected to be the largest with the arrival of 78 cruise liners until the end of April 2022.
'MSC Virtuosa' made its first voyage to Qatar on December 2, 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 the FIFA Arab Cup, Qatar International Food Festival 2021, Qatar Live Festival, and light & laser shows on the Corniche.
In a press statement, Qatar Tourism chairman and Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Akbar al-Baker said: "The return of 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 spending.
“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 at 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.
“We have worked tirelessly with our partners to ensure that safety protocols in line with the strict guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) 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 Covid-19 pandemic by the end of February 2020. To assuage concerns, the MoPH has put in place special protocols for travellers arriving to or from Qatar on cruise ships.
The 2019/20 cruise season witnessed the opening of the temporary passenger terminal spanning on an area of 6,000sqm. Doha Port has also completed several development 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 CEO 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 are put in place in co-ordination 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.
“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 six times in less than five 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.
“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 and travel agents.
As part of its promotional efforts, Qatar Tourism 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 a growth of 121% in the number of cruise passengers and an increase in the number of cruise ships, with more than 140,000 passengers arriving aboard 44 ships.
* BOX: Health protocols
All travellers who wish to disembark from cruise ships, including crew members and children over four years old, must undergo a rapid antigen test at the passenger terminal, to make sure they test negative for Covid-19.
As entry policies dictate, all passengers must also download the Ehteraz app on their mobiles and register before arrival. Pre-registration on the Ehteraz website is also required for all passengers, and those who wish to have a free tour must download the Ehteraz app before disembarking from the ship.
Cruise visitors are divided into three categories. The first category includes visitors whose cruise departs from Qatar. These passengers fly into Hamad International Airport (HIA) and will be subject to the MoPH’s regular travel policy.
The second category includes visitors whose cruise ends in Qatar. These passengers will leave through HIA.
The third category is transit visitors or one-day visitors, and these categories will be subject to cruise protocol, including the Covid-19 bubble system, and the bubble excursion.