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Qatar relaxes entry procedures for cruise travellers

With the cruise season nearing, Qatar has announced that it will implement fresh procedures to ease the entry of cruise passengers arriving at Qatari ports.

The new procedures have been announced keeping in view the huge number of cruise passengers during the cruise season. About 32 ships carrying more than 50,000 passengers are likely to arrive in Qatar this cruise season, from 18th October to April 2017.

As per the new procedure, a passenger manifest containing passport details of passengers and crew will be shared with immigration officials 48 hours prior to 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.

The QTA and Interior Ministry have confirmed that cruise passengers, due to their short duration of stay, will also be eligible for transit visas, to ease their entry into the country.

The Chief Tourism Development Officer at QTA, Hassan Al Ibrahim, said that the new procedures have been introduced in anticipation of major increase in number of cruise passengers. Earlier, Qatar welcomed smaller ship with less than thousand passengers. But, in the coming season, Qatar will be the first to see the arrival of larger ships with more than 1500 passengers on board.

The MSC Fantasia will be the first ‘mega-ship’ to arrive in Qatar, this December, and about 3900 passengers and 1500 crew members are expected to be on board.

Al Ibrahim said that Cruise tourism is a vital part of Qatar’s strategy to increase visitor arrivals. Hence, emphasis is laid to streamline all processes pertaining to cruise and developing the sector’s capacity to welcome large number of passengers.

Studies have shown that once the tourists have had a taste of destination they visited on a cruise, they will return for a longer visit, which gives further impetus to focus the strategy for next two years on this important sub-sector of tourism. On an average, cruise passengers spend about eight hours during their stops in Qatar, and therefore, it becomes imperative to minimize the time spent on completion of formalities during their day of visit, he said.

The Director-General, General Directorate of Nationality, Borders and Expat Affairs, Brig. Abdullah Salim Al Ali, said that the revised process for entry of cruise passengers will improve visitor experience, while also offering more time to process information thoroughly using passenger manifest, which will arrive 48 hours before the ship docks.

Recently, Qatar Tourism Authority and Ministry of Interior stepped up efforts to facilitate entry for tourists to increase arrivals. The officials recently signed a deal with VFS Global, which 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 that cruise passengers receive a warm welcome and enjoy an authentic Qatari experience.

Posted on 27/9/2016

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