With less than 3 months to go before cruise season officially starts, Qatar is getting ready to welcome thousands of new tourists to its shores.
Some 32 cruise vessels are expected to dock at Qatar’s ports from October 2016 to April 2017.
That’s triple the number of the 10 ships that arrived last season and two more than previously announced.
According to the Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), some 4,000 tourist visas were issued to cruise passengers aboard those ships.
However, it remains unclear how many tourists will enter Qatar during the upcoming season. QTA told Doha News that the 32 ships will carry 50,000 passengers, but not all of them will choose to disembark.
Now that Qatar’s new, much larger Hamad Port is operational, the former Doha Port off of the Corniche is being redeveloped into a cruise terminal and tourism destination.
The old port will be able to accept ships under 250m in length, but mega cruise ships such as the 333m MSC Fantasia will dock in Hamad Port until the revamp is completed, QTA said.
It added that next year, during the 2017-2018 season, German operator TUI Cruises will dock seven vessels, carrying up to 17,500 passengers, in Qatar.
The big cruise push is part of a larger effort to make Qatar an attractive destination for international tourists.
The Gulf country, which is working to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, aims to increase the overall number of visitors to Qatar to seven million by 2030.
In a statement, a QTA spokesperson said:
“The surge in tourists arriving at Qatar’s shores offer great opportunity for the entire tourism industry in Qatar.
Working hand-in-hand with our partners, we will ensure all our efforts, whether those related to infrastructure, visa processes, or tour operations, are well coordinated for an optimal tourist experience.”