Qatar has reported a strong rebound in cruise tourism following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, with passenger numbers and cruise calls almost back to normal.
Qatar Tourism says the country welcomed 58,000 passengers and crewmembers in the first half of the 2021/22 cruise season from 18 cruise ships calls, with a further 12 scheduled before the end of the season.
That compares with just over 66,000 during the entirety of the 2017/18 cruise season. Qatar Tourism says this strong recovery was made possible by collaboration between key cruise tourism stakeholders, including Qatar Airways, the Port Authority, Mwani, and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
“Thanks to the remarkable efforts of all our partners, we managed to successfully and safely resume cruise tourism, which is a crucial subsector that helps us showcase our authentic experiences to a large number of visitors within a short period of time,” said Akbar Al Baker, Chairman of Qatar Tourism and CEO of Qatar Airways Group.
“The role of Mwani Qatar is highly commendable, as they helped position Qatar as a popular destination for marine tourism in the region, within a short span of just six seasons,” he added. “We are now gearing up to witness a growth in passenger numbers, particularly in the lead up to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, with the opening of a permanent passenger terminal at Doha Port this summer.”
Qatar has implemented the latest travel safety regulations in coordination with stakeholders and the UAE, the primary cruise homeport destination in the Arabian Gulf. The vast majority of cruise ships sailing roundtrip in the Arabian Gulf during the winter cruise season homeport in Dubai, the UAE’s tourism hub, and Abu Dhabi, its capital city.
The winter cruise season runs from early December until March typically, but has been extended into June for the 2021/22 cruise season due to higher demand from cruise passengers who have been unable to travel during the pandemic.
During the current season, Doha has received four maiden calls and four luxury ships, while this is only the second season that has featured overnight stay itineraries for cruise passengers.
Doha Port has also handled a total of 13 turnarounds – during which passengers began and ended their journey in Qatar – on itineraries with MSC and TUI that interport between Dubai and Doha.
The top cruise source markets for the current cruise season have been Belgium, Brazil, France, India, Italy, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, according to Qatar Tourism, along with growth in the number of cruise tourists from the wider GCC.
This number is expected to increase further next year, in-part through Qatar Tourism’s partnership with Emerald Cruises to introduce new superyacht luxury cruises that offer eight-day itineraries with stops around the GCC region.
Qatar entered the cruise sector in 2015, 9 years after the first cruise ships began homeporting in Dubai, and is currently redeveloping the cruise terminal in Doha Port, which sits at the heart of Qatar’s cultural district, minutes away from leading national and cultural sites, and the Corniche promenade which serves iconic views of Doha’s skyline.
The new cruise terminal will open ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the first world cup to be held in the Middle East, during which MSC Cruises gargantuan next-generation cruise ship, MSC World Europa, will double as a floating hotel, before sailing her maiden middle east cruise season out of Dubai.
The new cruise terminal will have the capacity to host two megaships at the same time, while also offering various attractions, such as an aquarium and art gallery.