The tourism sector in Bahrain is expected to churn out 7 per cent of the island country’s GDP by 2018. The kingdom aims to attract visitors not only from Gulf countries but from Europe, Russia, India and China.
Thus far, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) has opened offices in seven countries including Great Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Russia and China. The next step is to expand towards other markets, including Italy, where Gulf Air is expected to start operating by 2018.
Bahrain will see the opening of 15 new hotels and beachfront resorts by 2020 – representing a total investment of more than $10 billion. New arrivals include global hotel brands such as One&Only, Wyndham, Fairmont, Vida, The Address, Ibis and Pullman.
Bahrain already has more than 190 hotels and resorts, and the extra developments are expected to increase hotel capacity by about 4,000 hotel rooms by 2020.
The kingdom will see another boost to its profile next year when its second largest island, Muhurraq, becomes the Islamic Cultural Capital 2018.
Once the centre of the world’s pearl trade, Muhurraq will be crowned the Arab region’s Islamic Cultural Capital to recognise the conservation work being done on the island – most notably with the Unesco World Heritage Pearling Trail due for completion in 2018.
The trail earned Unsco World Heritage status four years ago and encompasses 17 listed buildings, including a fortress, residences of wealthy merchants and a mosque.
The Bahrain National Museum covers 4,000 years of Bahraini history, while Beit Al Quran – meaning the ‘House of Quran’ – celebrates Islamic art, from stained glass to religious verses inscribed onto a grain of rice.
Bahrain’s tourism is being further buoyed by developments in the cruise industry.
The destination’s Khalifa Bin Salman Port received 32 calls in 2015 and it is expected to have received 40 by the end of 201.
P&O will base one of its Oceana cruises in the Arabian Gulf for a programme of five 10-night cruises between January and March 2019. The kingdom is becoming increasingly well known for its café culture, most notably at Block 338, a trendy pedestrian quarter crammed with cafés, restaurants and art galleries.
Bahrain welcomed 5.6 million visitors during the first half of 2017, an increase of 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2016.
The figures were revealed by the BTEA during a press conference held at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Center (BIECC). The press conference, headed by the chief executive officer of the BTEA Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, and held in the presence of the general director of statistics Dr Nabeel Shams and a number of representatives from BTEA.
“Inbound tourism expenditure during the first half of 2017 amounted to BD631.4 million ($1.6 billion) while the average tourist expenditure per day reached BD77 ($202.8) per day,” said Shaikh Khaled.
“Also total nights booked during the first half of 2017 totalled to 4.7 tourist nights with average length of stay (ALOS) reaching 2.3 night per tourist. Hotels topped the list of the type of accommodation booked by travellers, with over 70 per cent of travellers coming through the Bahrain International Airport and 72 per cent travelling through the King Fahad Causeway opting for a hotel stay,” he added.
“Our efforts are exerted in positioning the kingdom on the international tourism map and promoting Bahrain as a regional and international tourist destination which is line with our overall tourism strategy,” said Shaikh Khaled.
Other statistics revealed include an increase in the overall usage of mode of transport during the first half of 2017 with an increase of 13 per cent in the number of tourist accessing the kingdom through King Fahad Causeway, equivalent to 4.9 million visitors. Also the Bahrain International Airport witnessed an increase of 23 per cent which is equivalent to 616,230 visitors and Khalifa bin Salman Port recorded an increase of 44 per cent which equals to 43,191 visitors.
BTEA also revealed that 57 per cent of tourists visiting Bahrain stated ‘holiday and leisure’ as purpose of the visit, while 22 per cent mentioned shopping followed by 9 per cent for friends and families, 7 per cent for business, 2 per cent for health care and 3 per cent for other reasons.
The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Strategy ‘Ours Yours’ is based on four pillars in a step to further develop the tourism sector as a main contributor to the national economy. The strategy is based on four pillars ‘awareness, attraction, access and accommodation; including the improvement in the overall accessibility to Bahrain, attracting exhibitions and conferences to the Kingdom, improving the quality of services in the tourism and hospitality sectors, and strengthening the position of the kingdom as an ideal tourist destination for families and international tourist.
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