Bab Al Bahrain suq to become tourist-only area
Discussions could begin soon on a proposal to turn the Bab Al Bahrain suq into a tourist-only area.
It could be done by removing shops that are not 'tourist friendly', according to Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) board member and small and medium enterprises committee chairman Khalaf Hejair.
He said there was no need to have shops selling electronic goods and electrical appliances in the area, as tourists would not be looking to buy such items.
"Instead, there should only be shops that sell items that are unique to Bahrain and what Bahrain is known for," he told the GDN.
"These are the things that would interest tourists and include artefacts, souvenirs, local fruits, dates, clothes, gold and silverware and even restaurants serving local cuisine."
However, Mr Hejair said urgent steps should be taken to ensure enough tourists were coming into the country and on a regular basis.
"There has to be a constant flow of tourists to sustain all businesses otherwise the plan will not succeed," he said.
The businessman said at the same time adequate steps should be taken to properly look after businesses that would be moved out of the suq as part of the plan.
Mr Hejair plans to make a formal proposal to the BCCI board soon.
"Hopefully, this will be discussed and some decision will be arrived at," he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Hejair welcomed the news that thousands of cruise tourists would be coming to Bahrain.
Two of the world's largest cruise companies earlier agreed to return to Bahrain as the season gets underway in October.
German operators Aida and Towie are set to make 33 calls to the Khalifa Bin Salman Port, providing a major boost following the disruption to visits caused by last year's unrest.
"We have had some positive developments in that area and are looking forward to welcoming thousands of tourists," said Mr Hejair.
He said the suq could also be made attractive for the local population by having special attractions for them.
"They could come to the suq for an entirely different experience," he said without going into detail.
Mr Hejair said small and medium enterprises in Bahrain had suffered the most in the last few years, whether it was as a direct result of the unrest or the lack of business due to the global financial crisis.
"Things have started to look up but we need a lot of government support to turn the corner," he said, welcoming the recent government decision to suspend the BD10 monthly expatriate worker fee charged by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority until the end of the year.
"However, we are looking for more incentives in the future until we get back on track," added Mr Hejair.