Bahrain makes a big splash

This summer, Bahrain will debut the world’s largest underwater theme park covering an area of 100,000 sq m. A project by Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority (BTEA)‎, the kingdom’s Supreme Council for Environment and the private sector, it is a unique eco-friendly diving site featuring sculptures and a replica of a pearl merchant’s house.

The dramatic centrepiece will be the largest submerged airplane in the world, a 70-metre long decommissioned Boeing 747.

Perhaps equally dramatic is the steady rise of the country’s popularity as a destination over the last few years. The island nation welcomed an unprecedented 12 million visitors last year, an increase of 5.9 per cent compared to 2017. Bahrain has 28 hotel projects in the pipeline to accommodate for the continuous rise in influx.

We spoke to Yousef AlKhan, director of Tourism Marketing and Promotion, BTEA,  for more.


What are you promoting at ITB Berlin this year?

Participating in such a reputed international event such as the ITB Berlin Convention 2019 provides us with the opportunity to promote the kingdom’s unique attractions to an international audience in line with our long-term focus to further boost the strength of the local tourism sector and drive in visitors from across the world.

Bahrain has grown to be a hub for leisure and entertainment and we will continue to showcase its rich cultural heritage and burgeoning tourism landscape. We will also be promoting the world’s largest underwater theme park, which is scheduled to open this summer, covering an area of over 100,000 sq m. The eco-friendly project will become an international tourist attraction, given its large area, location and unique experience for diving enthusiasts.


The BTEA launched representative offices in seven countries last year. Are you planning to further expand your reach to new countries this year too?

We have recently opened a new representative office in Kuwait. Our offices located in Saudi Arabia, India, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom have played an integral role in increasing the number of visitors from abroad and promoting the kingdom to international travel agents and tour operators.


Tell us all about the new exhibition and conference centre in Sakhir. When will it be ready?

Work is well underway for the new exhibition and conference centre located in Sakhir, which is scheduled to open in 2021. Given Bahrain’s competitive location in the region, we look forward to attracting international businesses to hold their meetings, events and conferences in the new exhibition centre. This will positively impact the different sectors in the kingdom and further enhance the kingdom’s Mice sector, further contributing towards the kingdom's economy and the Economic Vision 2030.

The exhibition centre will include 10 exhibition halls with a total area of 95,000 sq m and will also include all the necessary services, in addition to areas dedicated for retail and events.

The conference centre will include a 4,500-sq-m conference hall, which can be divided into three separate halls equipped with state-of-the-art display and technical services. It will also include 27 small and medium conference and meeting rooms with a total area of about 1,700 sq m.


Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix 2019 celebrates 15 years this March – what’s new?

A successful global event such as the Formula One race has been attracting thousands of racing fans from around the world for the past 15 years due to its thrill and overall excitement.

The highly anticipated racing and entertainment event will be held over a period of four days for the first time and will be featuring superstar DJ and record producer, Martin Garrix in addition to world-renowned producer, songwriter and DJ Kygo, who will be performing on the March 29 and 30 respectively.

This year, attractions at the venue include a Ferris wheel offering views right across the track and beyond a Star flyer 60 metres in height and a carousel. The event will also be featuring the Formula 1 Game Zone, kids’ attractions, parlour games, roaming performers, stage shows and more.

What has 2018 been like?

The Kingdom of Bahrain, represented by the BTEA, has always stressed on the importance of shifting the tourism sector to be one of the main contributors to the national economy. The sound implementation of BTEA strategy has resulted in a significant improvement in the tourism sector performance over the course of the  last three years and by the rise in the rate of tourism's contribution to the non-oil GDP of the kingdom, which jumped from 4.6 per cent in 2015 to 6.2 per cent in September 2018.

In addition, tourism statistics revealed that inbound tourism recorded an unprecedented figure of 12 million visitors in 2018, an increase of 5.9 per cent compared to the previous year, and we have seen a steady annual growth rate of 7.6 per cent since 2015. These statistics stand testament to the authority’s success in implementing its long-term strategy and in enhancing its economic contribution to the national economy which is one of the main strategic pillars.

Bahrain is currently witnessing the launch of several international hotel chains and serviced apartments with the latest industry experts stating that 28 new properties are set to open by 2021. The decision for increasing the number of hotels in Bahrain is due to the increase in inbound tourism, which has compelled investors to focus on enhancing tourist and hospitality services in order to deliver exceptional services for visitors.


The world’s largest underwater theme park has gained a lot of media attention – can you tell us all about it?

Our strategy at the BTEA focuses on developing unique tourism products and experiences that set Bahrain apart from its competitors, while focusing on family tourism and shifting the sector to be one of the main contributors to the national economy and the Kingdom’s 2030 Economic Vision.

Construction of the world’s largest underwater theme park is a collaborative effort between the BTEA, the Supreme Council for Environment and the private sector. The unique diving and eco-friendly project, scheduled to open to this summer, covers an area of over 100,000 sqm and will be providing a differentiated and enjoyable experience for tourists and diving enthusiasts alike.

The exceptional diving site will feature the largest submerged airplane in the world, a 70-metre-long decommissioned Boeing 747 as its centrepiece. Other features will include a submerged replica of a traditional Bahraini pearl merchant’s house, artificial coral reefs and other marine sculptures that have been placed underwater forming a safe haven to encourage coral growth and develop a habitat for marine wildlife to thrive.