Qatar’s cruise tourism sector has received a quantum boost with Doha emerging as a turnaround port last week. It was a momentous occasion when Costa Diadema, the fleet flagship of leading Italian company Costa Cruises, docked at Doha Port for the first time on Wednesday, marking the first of 16 turnaround calls that the Dream-class cruise liner will make during the 2019-20 season. Visitors can now begin and end their journey from Doha and have the opportunity to enjoy Qatar’s five-star airline and award-winning hospitality before and after their cruises. The arrival of Costa Diadema comes as a result of an agreement signed between QNTC and Costa Cruises in September last year to develop cruise tourism in Qatar. With a capacity of 4,974 passengers and over 1,200 crew members, Costa Diadema is the latest addition to the fleet of Costa Cruises launched in 2014 and is currently the largest vessel flying an Italian flag.
Qatar has multiple advantages that make it a perfect turnaround cruise hub. The expanded network of Qatar Airways covering over 160 destinations worldwide provides visitors numerous options to suit the cruise itinerary. For example last Wednesday, passengers from seven destinations in six countries across Europe were able to arrive in Doha in the morning on board flights landing within a span of less than two hours. They also enjoyed a speedy immigration system at the five-star Hamad International Airport. Running parallel to the cruise season is an exciting winter calendar of events featuring FIFA Club World Cup 2019 matches, music concerts by global artistes and numerous retail, travel and hospitality promotions that the cruise passengers will be able to enjoy during their stay in Qatar.
It may be noted that as a result of various initiatives by Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) and its partners, Qatar’s cruise industry has seen remarkable growth during the last few years. The 2018-19 season achieved 121% growth in the number of cruise passengers and 100% growth in the number of cruise ships, with over 140,000 passengers arriving aboard 44 ships, including 38 mega ships, which typically carry between 3,000 and 4,000 passengers and crew. The 2019-20 season is expected to be even bigger, with over 186,000 passengers and over 61,000 crew arriving on 74 ships. Five ships will make their maiden calls to Doha this season. In addition to the 16 turnaround calls, it is also the first season where nine ships will be staying overnight at Doha Port, giving the passengers ample time to explore the destination’s offerings. Also 45 ships are making transit calls during this season.
While welcoming Costa Diadema at Doha Port, HE the Minister of Transport and Communications Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti observed that turnaround voyages contribute significantly to the country’s economy and strengthen the tourism sector. In addition to visitor spending, the growth in Qatar’s cruise tourism is also contributing to the country’s economy through cruise line spending on port services and maintenance.
As the cruise season grows year-on-year, thousands of jobs and business opportunities are created. QNTC secretary-general and Qatar Airways Group chief executive HE Akbar al-Baker stated that receiving turnaround calls is a great milestone for the country’s cruise tourism, that will support the hospitality, retail and aviation sectors as thousands of passengers spend time exploring Qatar.
In short, Qatar has a huge potential for the cruise industry and is a strong addition to the regional itinerary, as pointed out by Neil Palomba, president of Costa Cruises.
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