Cruise ships brought in around 3,000 tourists to Qatar during the last three months, a senior Qatar Tourism and Exhibition Authority (QTEA) official told Gulf Times.
QTEA licensing and classification head, Mohamed al-Ansari, said that despite the economic crisis and its subsequent effect on the travel and tourism industry globally, Qatar continues to receive more tourists each year as a result of thoughtful exposure and the QTEA’s well-rounded tourism strategy.
The number of visitors to Qatar has been increasing from some 400,000 in 2004 to over a million last year and the government has announced an investment of some $17bn to improve the country’s tourism infrastructure over the next five years.
“Since January, when we reviewed visa procedures, and up until March end, we have received five-six tourist ships with varying number of passengers with the last being the American cruise ship Silver Wind,” al-Ansari said.
He added that the new rules allow authorities to process passenger visas within four to seven working days before the ship’s arrival.
On the day of the ship’s arrival the passengers are received with fanfare and given traditional Qatari hospitality, he said.
“To make their visit a memorable one, we have made arrangements to specially welcome every tourist ship. We have a live band on standby and they are entertained by local divers as we distribute information brochure and maps to them,” he said.
Al-Ansari revealed that talks on the need for a longer dock for larger ships to berth were ongoing.
“Part of our efforts to boost cruise tourism was to ensure a deeper depth at the bay for larger ships at the old and new ports. The present facilities can only take in 200–230-metre long ships,” he said.
Al-Ansari said QTEA was also planning to build a much bigger arrival hall at the new port to receive guests.
However, there is expected to be lesser cruise ship travellers during the summer months.
Speaking at a meeting recently, QTEA chairman Ahmed al-Naimi said Qatar was not focusing on mass tourism but striving to make the country an upscale tourism destination.
“We are still building our tourism industry and at the moment, our focus is mainly on organising international conferences, meetings on leisure, education as well as sports and this is expected to receive a boost when our facilities are ready within the next two years,” he said.
Al-Naimi pointed out that the authority has introduced a scheme called ‘Qatar 48’ where guests are invited to experience Qatar in 48 hours.
“The Souq Waqif and the launch of the Museum of Islamic Art have made the country more attractive to visitors,” he added.
The QTEA will also organise two important events later this month to further boost tourism, al-Naimi added.
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