Several restaurants, coffee shops, and other retail outlets at Souq Waqif are expected to get a fillip from cruise tourism with more passengers opting for a city tour, it is learnt.
With 32 ships carrying more than 50,000 passengers expected to dock at Doha Port this 2016-2017 cruise season, Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) hopes to attract more foreign visitors to further boost the country’s hospitality and retail sectors.
An employee at a Lebanese restaurant told Gulf Times that they had recorded an increasing number of tourists from Europe and the US in recent months.
While they normally receive a lot of customers mostly (Qatar residents) during winter, she estimates that more than 15% are foreign visitors.
“They come in groups from morning to evening with a tour guide, many look for Arabic food and drinks while others go for international cuisines,” she added.
Apart from Iraqi and Lebases restaurants, Souq Waqif also hosts a number of Italian, Moroccan, Indian, Syrian, Turkish, Thai, and Qatari restaurants, among others.
Some tour operators noted that many cruise passengers prefer to visit museums (Museum of Islamic Art), Souq Waqif, Katara – the Cultural Village, and The Pearl-Qatar, places which are minutes away from the Doha Port.
A tour guide pointed out that city tour packages provide tourists with a wide range of offerings such as dhow rides, spas and massage treats in hotels, shopping, visit to cultural places and exhibitions, and a unique dining experience in several restaurants and café.
An Iraqi restaurant employee hopes to get another “fair share of the pie” with the arrival of MSC Fantasia today.
The mega cruise ship, carrying more than 3,000 passengers and 1,300 crew members, is expected to have six calls to Doha this season, according to QTA.
“Most people from the West who dine with us like our kebabs, lamb and chicken tika and other grilled meats,” he said. “We never fail to serve Arabic sweets too.”
With the new free transit visa at Hamad International Airport (HIA) in place, restaurants at Souq Waqif expressed optimism that they will be getting more customers in the coming months.
To be eligible for the transit visa, passengers must have a confirmed ticket for a journey into Qatar, with a confirmed onward journey out of the country on a Qatar Airways-operated flight.
The initiative aims to attract more passengers passing by HIA to explore and experience unique Qatari hospitality for up to 96 hours in between flights.
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