Posted on September 22, 2016

Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), in co-ordination with the Ministry of Interior and Qatar Ports Management Company, announced Wednesday new measures to facilitate their disembarkation and entry for a seamless tourism experience.

A statement released today from the authority said that the officials from the three entities have confirmed that cruise passengers will be able to disembark within minutes and begin enjoying their on-shore excursions. As part of the new operating procedure, a passenger manifest containing passport details of passengers and crew will be shared with immigration officials 48 hours in advance of the ship’s arrival in Qatar. This will allow immigration officials to process all relevant information and clear passengers for entry before the ship berths. In addition, QTA and the Ministry of Interior have confirmed that cruise passengers, due to the short duration of the stay, will be eligible for transit visas, which will further ease their entry into the country.

Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA Hassan Al Ibrahim (pictured) said that the new procedures have been introduced in anticipation of significant increases in the number of cruise passengers. While Qatar has previously welcomed smaller ships carrying less than a thousand passengers, the coming season will be the first to witness the arrival of larger ships with over 1,500 passengers on board. The MSC Fantasia will be the first "mega-ship" to arrive in Qatar. It will dock in December with an expected 3,900 passengers and 1,500 crew-members on board. He noted that passengers currently spend an average of eight hours on average in Qatar.

For his part, Director General of General Directorate of Nationality, Borders and Expatriates Affairs, Brigadier Abdullah Salim Al-Ali said that the Ministry of Interior is committed to facilitating government services while maintaining the utmost vigilance and security. The revised process for the entry of cruise passengers, Al Ali added, would enhance the visitors’ ability to experience Qatar while giving the Ministry of Interior more time to process information thoroughly using the passenger manifest. The announcement comes as QTA and the Ministry of Interior step up efforts to facilitate entry for tourists in a bid to increase visitor arrivals into the country. Qatari officials recently signed an agreement with VFS Global that will soon allow for a fast-tracked and transparent tourist visa application process.

Thirty-two ships carrying over 50,000 passengers are expected to arrive in Qatar this cruise season, which continues until April 2017. The first ship of the season is expected to dock on October 18th at the Doha Port in the heart of Qatar’s capital. Meanwhile QTA will continue to work with destination management companies and tour guides to ensure cruise passengers receive a warm welcome and enjoy an authentic Qatari experience during their stays. Tour guides have received intensive training on the management of large tour groups and effective communications about the destination.