Posted on February 06, 2019

Costa Mediterranea arrived at Doha Port, marking the Italian cruise ship's maiden voyage to Qatar, which brought 3,700 passengers and crew to the country's shores.

Upon her arrival, the mega ship was welcomed by Qatar’s Minister of Transport and Communications (MoTC), the Secretary General of Qatar Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC), Italy’s Ambassador to Qatar as well as CEO of Mwani Qatar.

“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. This in turn energizes 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 HH the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani,” said His Execllency Jassim Saif Ahmed Al Sulaiti, Minister of Transport and Communications.

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.”

The minister pointed out the role played by Mwani Qatar and the National Tourist Council (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,” the Minister concluded.

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Costa Mediterrenea's arrival follows the signing of an agreement between QNTC and Costa Cruises last September. According to the agreement Costa Cruises' flagship Costa Diadema will arrive in Qatar 16 times during its 2019/20 programme; therefore Costa will become the first cruise line to make Doha its turnaround port. The MoU also paves the way for cooperation to build attractive packages and special services dedicated to Costa Cruises guests in addition to co-marketing efforts through joint communication and familiarisation trips. 

His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, QNTC Secretary General commented, “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. Our collaboration with Costa Cruises is helping to 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."

HE Pasquale Salzano, Italy's Ambassador to Qatar commented, “I am very proud to board today 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.” Highlighting the growing ties between Italy and Qatar, he added, “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.”

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The passengers' smooth docking and disembarkation is made possible thanks to close coordination between QNTC, Mwani Qatar, Ministry of Interior, Qatar Customs Authority, Mowasalat and Destination Management Companies, allowing passengers to leave the port swiftly and begin enjoying curated experiences around Doha. 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 who has a representative office in Milan working to position Qatar with key travel and tourism agencies as an attractive destination for Italian travelers. 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 in order 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,” said Neil Palomba, President of Costa Cruises.

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 numbers of cruise ships and visitors respectively, compared to the same period last year. December 2018 witnessed the highest arrivals this season with 9 ship arrivals 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; they are followed by Germany, Italy, UK, USA, 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, especially thanks to a port expansion that now allows Doha Port to welcome the mega ship and Doha 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 began taking visitor satisfaction surveys since last season. Opinion polls and surveys carried out by the 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.