(MENAFN - The Peninsula) The Peninsula Online
Doha: Cruise tourism in Qatar is witnessing exponential growth with the past season recording a year-on-year increase of over 1,000% in the number of passengers arriving at Doha's shores.
Whilein 2015 Qatar received 4,000 tourists, the number grew multifold and is expected to touch 60,000 in 2017.
'From 4,000 passengers in 2015, Doha Port has achieved a record high number of tourists with expectations of 60,000 passengers in 2017 and our goal is to reach 500,000 passengers by 2022, Qatar Ports Management Company (Mwani Qatar) tweeted.
The first cruise ship of the current season, Seaborne Encore, docked at Doha Port with more than 500 passengers on board in the last week of October. This season, which continues until April 2018, will see 21 ships making a call at Doha port.
This year there are five new ships making their maiden calls to Qatar, and for the first time there will be 2 megaships making calls into Doha Port.
Mein Schiff 5 docked at Doha Port on November 22 marking the arrival of the first mega cruise ship of the 2017/ 2018 cruise season. The German vessel measured 293 meters in length and is 15 decks high with a capacity to carry nearly 4,000 passengers and crew.
Mein Schiff 5 is expected to return to Doha Port seven more times this season. The Italian mega ship MSC Splendida, which carries 3,900 passengers, is also scheduled to make six calls to Doha Port this season.
In preparation for more growth in Qatar's cruise tourism, major development projects are underway including the redevelopment of Doha Port into a tourist hub and permanent cruise terminal with capacity for two mega cruise ships simultaneously. Once these development projects are complete, cruise tourism is projected to attract over 500,000 visitors to Qatar and generate QR350m annually by 2026.