Qatar’s tourism sector continues to benefit from the hosting of the FIFA World Cup last year, not least when it comes to the upcoming 2023/24 winter cruise season.
This coming winter season, MSC Cruises’ MSC Virtuosa will be operating in the Gulf. The ship, which is well known to UK guests, continues the line’s support for the region – last year, the operator held the naming ceremony for MSC World Europa in Doha.
Elsewhere, luxury line Ponant and Norwegian Cruise Line will also be in Doha for turnarounds.
The Doha Expo
For those cruise guests visiting Doha between October 2023 and March 2024, the Doha Expo 2023 will be in full swing.
This event, which has a theme of ‘green desert, better environment’, has been developed under Qatar’s National Vision 2030, a project to transform Qatar into a society capable of achieving sustainable development.
The expo will have 57 countries participating in certain guises, all working towards ideas and solutions that can prevent desertification.
The event will take place at the Al Bidda Park, which is close to Hamad International Airport, Doha Port, and the Business Centre.
One-to-one with Qatar Tourism’s Craig Upshall
Why is cruise so important to Qatar?
“We’re in a unique position following the World Cup last year, which was a springboard to launch Qatar to the world. Tourism is a very important growth area for us.
“We have seen exponential growth for cruise.
“We recently inaugurated the new cruise terminal, so we need to fully utilise that. We have, I believe, the most picturesque port and location in the region.
“It has easy access to the main tourist sites, with pedestrian access to the city, so it’s all going on. All of this feeds into the tourism vision of six million visitors by 2030.”
What are your top selling tips for agents?
“We launched an online training platform last summer – Qatar Specialist Training Programme – which gives agents all-encompassing training and learning, so they can become specialists on the destination. We’re great advocates of getting agents to see the destination for themselves.”
What’s coming up in terms of cruise lines visiting?
“So, from October and the start of the season we have MSC Cruises doing its Gulf itineraries, as well as Costa Cruises.
“We also have our first ever Norwegian Cruise Line turnaround in January 2024, and Windstar Cruises overnighting through the season. Ponant will also be offering embarkations with open jaw itineraries between Doha and Muscat.
“As we move towards the end of the year, we’ll see more development – so more hotels opening, more desert resorts, and so on.
“All of that ties into the pre and post opportunities, which ultimately is what we want as a destination, to see people come and spend two or three nights here before or after their cruise.”