* Costa Cruises to be first cruise line to make Doha its turnaround port next year
* In 2019/20 cruise season, flagship Costa Diadema is scheduled to make 16 calls to Doha Port
Costa Mediterranea’s arrival at Doha Port on Wednesday marked the Italian cruise ship’s maiden voyage to Qatar, bringing 3,700 passengers and crew members to the country’s shores. Upon her arrival, the mega ship was welcomed by the Minister of Transport and Communications HE Jassim Seif Ahmed al-Sulaiti, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) secretary-general HE Akbar al-Baker, Italian ambassador Pasquale Salzano and Mwani Qatar CEO Captain Abdulla al-Khanji.
“We are pleased to see Doha Port playing a significant role in enhancing Qatar's position as an attractive tourist destination through accommodating international cruise ships,” HE the Minister said. "This, in turn, energises various ancillary sectors such as hospitality, food and beverage, retail and other services, making cruise shipping an important sector for diversifying the country's economy in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and the guidance of His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani."
He added, “The development of Doha Port is part of our ongoing efforts to make Doha a unique and attractive tourist destination in the region. Dredging and drilling has recently begun to deepen the port, enhancing its ability to accommodate the world's largest cruise ships.”
HE the Minister stressed the role played by Mwani Qatar, QNTC and other stakeholders in providing world-class services, further positioning Doha as a turnaround port for future cruise seasons. “I would like to commend QNTC, Mwani Qatar and all stakeholders for their collaboration in developing Qatar's cruise tourism,” he concluded.
Costa Mediterrenea’s arrival follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between QNTC and Costa Cruises in September 2018.
According to the agreement, Costa Cruises' flagship Costa Diadema will arrive in Qatar 16 times during its 2019/20 programme; it will then become the first cruise line to make Doha its turnaround port.
The MoU also paves the way for co-operation to build attractive packages and special services dedicated to Costa Cruises guests, in addition to co-marketing efforts through joint communication and familiarisation trips.
Dignitaries and officials along with the ships captain
“We are delighted to welcome Costa Cruises – as both cruise ship and partner – to Qatar’s shores and look forward to the cruise line being the first to make Doha Port a turnaround port next year,” HE al-Baker said. “Our collaboration with Costa Cruises is helping expedite the development of the cruise industry in Qatar and Costa Mediterranea's arrival marks another step towards our target of 200,000 cruise visitors by 2020.”
He added, “As we continue to work with our local partners in the country to provide memorable experiences to each and every cruise visitor, we look forward to seeing Qatar become an increasingly frequent destination on Costa Cruises’ itineraries.”
On his part, ambassador Salzano said: “I am very proud to board Costa Mediterranea on its maiden voyage to Qatar. The top-level technology and customer service of this mega cruise ship – similar to others in the Costa fleet - are designed to meet the best of Italian innovation, lifestyle and engaging hospitality.”
He also highlighted the growing ties between Italy and Qatar, and said: “We are proud that thanks to the new partnership between Qatar National Tourism Council and Costa Cruises, more international tourists will travel to Qatar in Italian style and comfort, bringing our countries closer.”
The passengers’ smooth docking and disembarkation is made possible through close co-ordination between QNTC, Mwani Qatar, the Ministry of Interior, General Authority of Customs, Mowasalat and destination management companies, allowing passengers to leave the port swiftly and begin enjoying curated experiences around Doha, according to a press statement.
Costa Cruises and its sister-company AIDA Cruises were the first cruise companies in the world to start regular cruises in the Arabian Gulf back in 2006. "This makes Costa an ideal partner for QNTC, which has a representative office in Milan working to position Qatar with key travel and tourism agencies as an attractive destination for Italian travellers," the statement adds.
Italians were among the top three nationalities to visit the country on board cruise ships in the 2017/18 season.
“Costa Cruises is a pioneering company, constantly innovating its product to deliver guests an unforgettable cruise experience. Therefore, we are glad to start operating in an interesting destination such as Qatar, which has a big potential for the cruise industry and allows further strengthening of the entire region,” Costa Cruises president Neil Palomba said.
Continued growth for Qatar's cruise tourism sector
In the first three months of the 2018/19 cruise season, Qatar witnessed a 129% and 136% increase in the number of cruise ships and visitors, respectively, compared to the same period last year.
December 2018 witnessed the highest arrivals this season with nine ships carrying a combined total of 29,000 visitors, representing a 150% increase on the same period last year.
The top three cruise visitor source markets have so far been Mexico, Spain and Brazil, followed by Germany, Italy, the UK, US, Russia, Switzerland and Austria.
Qatar’s cruise industry is set for further growth in the coming years, with projections showing the arrival of 200,000 passengers by 2020. Thanks to an expansion that now allows Doha Port to welcome mega ships, the port is expected to receive more than one mega ship at the same time.
Cruise visitor satisfaction on the rise
In a bid to further measure and enhance the cruise tourism visitor experience, QNTC has begun taking visitor satisfaction surveys since last season. Opinion polls and surveys carried out by QNTC show that cruise visitors’ overall satisfaction is at 94%, up from 92% in the same period last year. In addition, 95% of visitors said they would recommend Qatar as a destination to family and friends.
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