Manama – Bahrain aims to make tourism one of its top earners alongside banking over the next two decades, a top government official has announced.
The country’s Economic Vision 2030 calls for a major boost to the tourism sector, with the setting up of massive infrastructure projects and facilities, said Culture and Information Ministry tourism adviser Dr Heba Abdul Aziz.
She was speaking at the opening of the First Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, organised by shipping company and logistics provider Seatrade and supported by the ministry.
Dr Abdul Aziz said that there was great economic benefit from cruise tourism since it impacted different business sectors, including ports, airlines, hotels, restaurants, retailers and tour operators.
‘A passenger ship with 2,000 tourists makes Bahrain richer by $274,165 per port of call,’ she said.
‘With more than 70 ships docking in Bahrain in the cruise season from October to May, this has translated to a substantial figure.’
Dr Abdul Aziz said many more ships are expected to come to the country in the next cruise season, beginning in October this year.
‘We expect there will be at least 100 ships coming in,’ she said.
Research revealed that between 50 per cent and 70pc of cruise tourist’s return to Bahrain for a land vacation later, said Dr Abdul Aziz.
‘Promoting the cruise tourism industry is thus a win-win situation for all,’ she said.
Abdul Aziz said around 40,000 cruise tourists visited Bahrain during the 2006 and 2007 season, but the figure went up to 57,000 the next season.
‘In the 2008 and 2009 season, we had 120,000 cruise tourists, while the numbers reached 150,000 in the season just ended.’
Culture and Information Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa said Bahrain was making great strides in the tourism industry and was taking steps to attract more tourists to the country.
‘We have a lot of places of cultural and historical interest and we are developing them,’ she said.
‘In the very near future, we have a plan to market these to the world.’
The minister said that the cruise tourism industry would play a major role in the overall promotion of tourism in Bahrain.
‘We are developing this industry in a big way and have already seen a lot of growth,’ said Shaikha Mai.
General Organisation of Sea Ports (GOP) director-general Hassan Ali Al Majed led a panel discussion at the event on Bahrain’s tourism sector as well as the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing cruise tourism in the region.
‘The GOP is committed to playing an active role in promoting Bahrain’s world-class cruise facilities at the new Khalifa Bin Salman Port, and we are keen to play our role in positioning the region as a must-see destination for tourists,’ he said.
‘Bahrain has a unique place among other countries in the region and we are confident that the increase in cruise tourism through the new port will help promote Bahrain’s rich cultural heritage and archaeological legacy.’
Al Majed said by working with its neighbours and through knowledge transfer in international forums, the GOP expected to establish a strong regional proposition for cruise lines.
‘We appreciate the ministry’s timely initiative to bring this event to Bahrain and we will continue to provide our support,’ he said.
‘We have invited several of our counterparts from around the region to attend in order to unify the industry, share best practice and raise the bar for all involved in the cruise industry.’
Leading global cruise-liner companies represented at the forum, which concludes today, include Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Silversea, TUI Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Sea Cloud.