Speaking before an audience of 200 regional ministers, tourism leaders and leading cruise and industry professionals, His Excellency Issa bin Mohammed Al Mohannadi, Chairman of Qatar Tourism Authority, outlined Qatar’s leading role in developing the cruise tourism industry in the Gulf.
The Chairman’s remarks were delivered at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum in Abu Dhabi. Ocean and coastal tourism is widely regarded as one of the fastest growing areas of tourism today. The Gulf region remains underrepresented in the global cruise industry, however.
Seatrade Middle East is a conference, workshop and networking opportunity for regional destinations to interact with cruise line decision makers from the world’s leading cruise lines. The event is organized to identify areas of cooperation and the challenges facing the cruise industry in the region. With only 1% of the global cruise market operating in the Gulf region it has enormous potential for the GCC. Some of the challenges raised and discussed include the need to facilitate the touristic visa processes by possibly creating a unified visa for the gulf, the creation of ports and the right infrastructure capable of receiving such touristic cruises, in addition to diversifying the touristic activities to create an integrated and a unique experience between the different countries.
The attendees of the forum hailed the success of the shared visa experience between Qatar and Oman, and Dubai and Oman, while cruise operators called for growing the number of shared visa to include additional routes, such as Qatar and Bahrain, and Qatar and Dubai.
Addressing the conference, Chairman Al Mohannadi said: “The presence of a home port for cruise lines would enhance not only Qatar but the Gulf’s position as a tourist destination and promote economic diversity. As the tourism industry develops in Qatar and across the Gulf, the cruise market can be a pillar of growth that accelerates our efforts and brings more people to discover the products on offer”.
Al Mohannadi urged cruise operators to cooperate with local tourism offices to promote cruise tours for the Gulf citizens to encourage regional tourism on board of the cruises.
Speaking about transforming the Doha port to a cruise terminal, the Chairman noted it would be possible convert the port into a touristic destination that consists of a residential area, a large retail shopping area in addition to a hotel and a number of restaurants. Cruise tour operators welcomed the idea of transforming the current port due to its location at the heart of touristic destinations such as the Museum of Islamic Art, Souq Waqif, Musheireb, the Corniche, The National Museum and its proximity to Hamad International Airport, which will facilitate the transportation of tourists from and to the cruises. The surroundings of the port are a key factor in attracting cruises, and falls in line with the operation of touristic ships as they dock in the harbors for four to eight hours during which passengers are given the chance to visit a large number of tourist sites in Doha.
“We are aware of the importance of cruise industry and are working towards making significant investments in infrastructure to meet the opportunity and drive demand in the region. QTA aims to play a major role in developing regional itineraries and facilities in order to make the Gulf region an attractive route to the cruise industry as it gains in prominence as a cruise location”, continued Al Mohannadi.
The Chairman recognized the importance of collaboration among Gulf states in attracting a greater cruise industry presence. He pointed to upcoming events such as the UAE hosting Dubai Expo 2020 and Qatar hosting FIFA World Cup in 2022. The port will also contribute to attracting more tourists that will be able to visit Doha via different modes of transportation.
His Excellency pointed to how cruise industry growth fits within the Qatar National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTS-2030). Aligning with the goals set for increased visitors to Qatar and increasing tourism’s contribution to GDP by 2030, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030. The NTS-2030 will serve as the road map for the sector’s development in the coming years. QTA has a key role to play in coordinating the development of a sustainable tourism sector in Qatar, and growing tourism’s contribution to a diversified national economy.
The new cruise terminal is one of many infrastructure investments underway to upgrade the venues and facilities for the tourism sector. The scene is set for continued growth, as new infrastructure readies to accelerate the growth of the sector. Doha Exhibition and Conference Center is under construction and Hamad International Airport, the Railway and other infrastructure projects that will serve the tourism industry.