Cruise Saudi sails ahead on its journey
Cruise Saudi announced that it has already surpassed its 2023 goal. At the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022, the PIF-owned entity announced that it has plans to add another two cruise ports on The Red Sea: Duba in the north and Jizan in the south, while Dammam, Saudi’s cruise gateway into the Arabian Gulf, will be online by the end of this year.
TTN spoke to Fawaz Farooqui, Managing Director, Cruise Saudi, for more. “Our target is one million passengers by 2028, which is not hard for us to achieve given all the support we get from the government agencies and our owner, the Public Investment Fund.
“In addition to Jeddah, we have launched two new ports on The Red Sea, north of Jeddah: King Abdullah Economic City and Yanbu. We now have multiple excursion options for cruisers to come and enjoy.
“We’re a premium destination; we don’t compete on price; we compete on quality and offering”
– Fawaz Farooqui
“We have 1,700 kilometres of coastline in Saudi Arabia. Dammam cruise port will come online at the end of this year. Our focus is to really make sure Jeddah becomes one of the largest homeports in the world. It is ready and it can accommodate guests comfortably while the rest of the destinations – giga projects such as Neom - come online.” COOL WINTER
Saudi Arabia received more than 30,000 cruise passengers during its 2021/22 winter cruise season (November to April). A third of cruise passengers were international and represented more than 80 nationalities, but majority were European, Farooqui tells us.
MSC Cruises, Scenic Group, Viking and Silversea totalled 70 calls to the country, with MSC Bellissima and Scenic Eclipse both home porting in Jeddah through summer and winter.
The winter season itinerary saw the region collaborate to develop three-, four-, or seven-night itineraries which included ports of call in Jordan, as well as around the Saudi coastline. Saudi’s coastline is the nexus between classic Mediterranean destinations and a multitude of Indian Ocean hotspots, offering a pristine maritime route for cruisegoers from around the world. FOCUS ON QUALITY
While cruise vacations have long been considered as an option for seniors, this is changing as young people increasingly go on cruise trips.
Around half of the passengers who have come onboard Cruise Saudi’s ships were below the age of 55, and Cruise Saudi is actively trying to attract a younger demographic by offering shore excursions such as hiking and diving.
Luxury cruises, however, are still attuned to the 50+ market as they are expensive and based on experience rather than activities, he says.
“We want to become the largest luxury cruising platform in the world, utilising the niche products we have in Saudi Arabia. We’re a premium destination; we don’t compete on price; we compete on quality and offering,” he said.
Cruise Saudi has already developed ports that are close to two of Saudi Arabia’s six Unesco World Heritage Sites, including Jeddah’s historical quarter and the ancient city of Hegra in AlUla. It has also signed its first cruise project with Aman; a giga-yacht slated for launch in 2025.
“When it comes to cruise tourism, the pie is big enough. We need to market cruising here as a region. We’ve partnered with Egypt and Jordan to market the Red Sea as a region which will help us attract global cruise lines,” said Farooqui.
“We’re starting to do the same in the Arabian Gulf, where we’re working with Abu Dhabi and Dubai ports to market ourselves as a region. We’re now working on a regional cruising association to take things to the next level,” he said. TRAINING INITIATIVES
Cruise Saudi seeks to create 50,000 jobs in the cruise industry in Saudi by 2035.
Initiated by Cruise Saudi, onboard hospitality training programmes have been conducted in collaboration with King Abdulaziz University and Prince Mugrin University, as well as the Culinary Arts Commission to nurture local chefs onboard vessels plus develop culinary tour guides introducing tourists to authentic Saudi flavours.
A tour guide training programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Saudi Tourist Guide Association, was also launched to create the first generation of cruise-specific tour guides.