Qatar to ease entry procedures for cruise passengers
22 Sep 2016 - 15:03
DOHA: Qatar has announced it will implement new procedures to ease the entry of cruise passengers arriving at Qatari ports as the start of cruise season nears.
The new procedures come in anticipation of the huge number of cruise passengers this coming cruise season. Thirty-two ships carrying over 50,000 passengers are expected to arrive in Qatar this cruise season, from October 18 to April 2017.
Under the new procedure, a passenger manifest containing passport details of passengers and crew will be shared with immigration officials 48 hours before 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, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) and the Ministry of Interior (MoI)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.
Officials from QTA, MoI and Qatar Ports Management Company – Mwani Qatar have confirmed that, thanks to enhanced technology and close collaboration between cruise operators and security officials, cruise passengers will be able to disembark within minutes and begin enjoying their on-shore excursions.
Hassan Al Ibrahim, Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA, said the new procedures have been introduced in anticipation of significant increase 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. “Cruise tourism is an important part of our strategy to increase the number of visitor arrivals. That is why we are placing emphasis on streamlining all processes related to cruise and developing the sector’s capacity to welcome a large number of passengers,” said Al Ibrahim.
“Studies show that once tourists have had a taste of a destination they visited on a cruise, they are likely to return for a longer visit, giving us further impetus to focus our strategy for the next two years on this important sub-sector of tourism.
“Cruise passengers spend eight hours on average during their stops in Qatar, so it is important to minimise the time spent on formalities on the day of their visit.
“We are grateful to the MoI for the initiative and support in implementing a solution that will ensure our visitors get the most out of their visit without compromising on our nation’s security,” Al Ibrahim added.
Brigadier Abdullah Salim Al Ali, Director-General, General Directorate of Nationality, Borders and Expatriates Affairs, said: “The MoI always strives to facilitate government services while maintaining the utmost vigilance and security for the sake of visitors and residents.
“The revised process for the entry of cruise passengers will enhance visitor experience while giving us more time to process information thoroughly using the passenger manifest, which will arrive 48 hours before the ship docks.”
The announcement comes as QTA and the MoI step up efforts to facilitate entry for tourists to increase arrivals. Officials recently signed an agreement with VFS Global that will soon allow for a fast-tracked and transparent tourist visa application process. QTA continues to work closely with destination management companies and tour guides to ensure cruise passengers receive a warm welcome and enjoy an authentic Qatari experience. Tour guides have received intensive training on the management of large tour groups and effective communication about the destination.