Bahrain’s tourism industry’s contribution to the country’s GDP will substantially grow in the coming years, a minister declared yesterday. Information Minister Jihad Bukamal also praised the high standard and the quality of products displayed at the Bahrain International Travel Expo (BITE 2008), which opened at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) last evening.
“BITE has been successful in Bringing the World to Bahrain,” he told the GDN, after opening the four-day exhibition.
The event is being held under the patronage of Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Economic Development Board chairman Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa .
“The continuation of BITE on an annual basis itself is a sign of its success,” said Mr Bukamal.
“I am extremely delighted to represent the Crown Prince at the opening ceremony. The high standard of the exhibition will contribute significantly in making Bahrain a destination for international tourists.”
Such events will increase the tourism industry’s share in the Kingdom’s GDP, said Mr Bukamal.
More than 120 exhibitors from 44 countries are taking part in the exhibition .
Jamil Wafa, group chairman of Magnum Holdings, the parent company of Magnum Events and Exhibitions Management (MEEM), the organisers of BITE, attributed the event’s success over the past four years to the patronage and support of the Crown Prince.
“We are happy that the Crown Prince delegated the Information Minister to open the exhibition during his absence abroad,” he added.
“The exhibition is a total sell-out, and the standard of the expo is exemplary. When we first launched BITE four years ago, we started with 1,000sqm of space and 12,500 visitors. This year it has grown to 8,000sqm and we are expecting more than 20,000 visitors.”
This year’s exhibition is scheduled from today to Saturday to provide the convenience of the weekend and be more consumer-friendly, said Mr Wafa.
It will open to consumers and visitors from 10am to 12.30pm, and from 4pm to 8pm today, from 4pm to 10pm tomorrow, and from 10am to 6pm on Saturday.
Mr Wafa revealed that Bahrain’s Labour Fund was participating for the first time in BITE.
They will be organising a seminar on Saturday, from 12.30pm to 2.30pm, to highlight the role of the Labour Fund in supporting the private sector and the tourism industry in particular, by providing skilled human capital for added value jobs and career opportunities.
The Labour Fund will also have a booth dedicated to explain the current developments of Bahrain’s national workforce and display programmes to benefit from both human capital development and private sector support initiatives.
“BITE is the first business-to-consumer travel and tourism event in the region,” said Mr Wafa.
“It is as much for businesses as it is for consumers offering a huge variety of services, choices and special deals. Every year, we make new additions with new participants, which makes the expo very dynamic and exciting.”
The countries participating for the first time in BITE 2008 are the UAE (Abu Dhabi), the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ethiopia, Hungary, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, Oman, Spain , Sweden and Tunisia.
Bahrain Training Institute (BTI), which recently received a licence from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), allowing it to operate as an Authorised Training Centre (ATC), is also participating in BITE for the first time. It will be launching their newly-established travel academy at the exhibition.
Previous participants returning to BITE include Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Brunei, China, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, The Netherlands, Turkey, the UK, and the US.
A ‘Hosted Buyers Programme’ will run alongside the exhibition, which supports structured networking sessions between local tourism professionals and international MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) specialists.
“Our motto at BITE is still ‘Bringing the World to Bahrain’,” reiterated Mr Wafa.
The exhibition encompasses a wide variety of sectors ranging from airlines to car rental companies, conventions and exhibitions, cruise lines, health resorts and spas, hotel accommodation providers, MICE organisers, tourist attractions, tourism boards, tourism TV channels, tour operators, travel insurance as well as travel and tourism publications.
The platinum sponsors for BITE 2008 are Economic Development Board (EDB) along with the Information Ministry – Tourism Affairs, while Gulf Air has once again come onboard as the official carrier and Qatar Airways as the gold sponsor.
The expo is actively supported by the Bahrain Five-Star Hotels Owners Executive Committee, Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority and the Central Governorate. Elite Hospitality is the official hotel, Atlas Travel and Culture Channel (ATC) are the official TV channels, Al Hilal Group and Akhbar Al Khaleej are media partners, Zain communications partner and Bahrain Limo is the transportation partner.