Qatar looks to busy winter cruise season for tourism boost

78 cruise liners expected to bring tourists to Gulf state from December to April

  
Cruise ship in sea at dusk. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Cruise ship in sea at dusk. Image used for illustrative purpose.

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Qatar expects to have the “busiest” cruise season during the winter months, with dozens of vessels bringing thousands of tourists scheduled to dock in the Gulf state beginning this month until early next year, officials said on Sunday. 

At least 78 cruise liners will make maiden calls to Qatar between December and April 2022, according to Qatar Tourism and Mwani Qatar, the organisations responsible for managing the country’s shipping terminals and seaports.  

In a statement, the two agencies said that the first cruise ship expected to arrive will be MSC Virtuosa, which made its first voyage to Qatar on Thursday, bringing around 4,600 visitors to Doha. 

The winter season will also be “particularly busy”, as several in-person events have already been lined up, including the FIFA Arab Cup, Qatar International Food Festival 2021, Qatar Live Festival and Light and Laser shows. 

“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,” said Akbar Al Baker, Chairman of Qatar Tourism and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive. 

“With the opening of the permanent passenger terminal at Doha Port, we expected to witness a growth in cruise visits in the coming period, particularly in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.” 

The global cruise industry, which was estimated to be worth $150 billion 2018, hit a massive slump in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted governments around the world to shut their doors to international visitors.

Around 32 million passengers were previously expected to go on a cruise in 2020 alone, but travel plans had been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

It’s not clear yet when the industry is going to recover from the pandemic, but some markets in the Middle East, including the UAE, have already reopened their doors to cruise liners, and players industry are finding ways to entice travellers on board. 

“When the industry does restart, things are likely to look very different on board. Many in the sector are trying to promote cruise ships as the safest form of travel for the future, with coronavirus tests, social distancing and hand sanitiser making vessels a safe haven or bubble,” the World Economic Forum said in November 2021. 

According to Abdulla Mohamed Al-khanji, several precautionary measures have been put in place to ensure a safe restart. 

“Many health and safety procedures [have been] 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 said. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria) 

Cleofe.maceda@refinitiv.com 

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© ZAWYA 2021


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