10 December 2015

Bahrain joins Cruise Arabia Alliance

Bahrain has become the latest country to confirm its commitment to the Cruise Arabia Alliance, which now has membership from the UAE emirates Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, as well as Qatar and Oman. The alliance encourages its members to share best practices and ensure a region-wide level of service and standards offered to both the cruise lines and their passengers.

The announcement was made at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, which was held in Doha, Qatar and hosted by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA). The announcement was made in conjunction with Bahrain announcing it would be complementing the 2015/2016 cruise season with 68,000 passengers and 32 calls from major cruise lines.

The QTA also stated that Qatar is expecting a three-fold increase in passengers next season. Thirty cruise ships will be bringing up to 50,000 passengers to Doha between October 2016 and April 2017 - up from the eight calls scheduled this season.

Hassan Al Ibrahim, QTA’s Chief Tourism Development Officer, said: “Qatar places huge importance on the cruise industry, both to diversify the tourism sector and Qatar’s overall economy. There are long-term plans to upgrade the country’s infrastructure, all of which will enable us to tap into the potential of cruise tourism by developing Qatar’s ports.

“We are building our infrastructure and human capital; we have a new destination brand that consolidates the industry’s efforts to attract more visitors; and, we are diversifying and enhancing the products and services across the entire industry.

“For our part, QTA is working with partners across the public and private sectors, to plan, regulate, develop and promote the tourism sector, with the aim of achieving growth that is both exponential and sustainable.”

He added: “QTA is committed to providing at least 6,000 rooms on cruise ships for the 2022 FIFA World Cup competition - in the redeveloped Doha Port – reinforcing cruise tourism as one of our most exciting and enduring legacies.”

The Forum confirmed that the Arabian Gulf is now the third most popular winter cruising destination with one million cruise passenger visits expected in GCC countries during the 2015 to 2016 season.

Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, organisers of the Forum, said: “Over the two days of the Forum, we have repeatedly heard from tourism and ports authorities across the region that the cruise industry has been identified as a crucial area for growth in the coming years and that many see this sector as an engine for sustainable development of their economies, and as an important pillar that supports efforts to limit dependence on natural energy resources as a driver of GDP.”

To achieve this, Hayman highlighted the significance of the Cruise Arabia alliance which is committed to its members working together with the common goal of growing cruise tourism and tackling the challenges faced, whilst taking advantage of the opportunities that will arise in the coming years.

Amongst the challenges discussed is the importance of each destination to create shore excursions that are diverse and offer unique onshore opportunities for cruise line passengers. The question of obtaining visas was also flagged as a challenge but was felt that each destination was developing wider flexibility and this had been well addressed since the last Forum in 2015. Security was also highlighted as a potential challenge as perceptions of passengers unfamiliar with the region had been influenced by international media coverage. However, it was felt that passengers who have visited the Arabian Gulf for themselves understand that it is a safe area with tight security, and can be ambassadors in promoting the region.