The iconic Raffles brand is coming to the Kingdom
In June it was announced that the representative office in Germany witnessed an increase in the sales of travel agencies by 59 per cent and a 17 per cent increase in the number of tourist trips in comparison to the same period last year. In India travel agency sales were up 690 per cent and total arrivals rose by 32 per cent. And the Russian office reported an increase of 728 per cent from travel agencies, with trips up by 107 per cent and arrivals up 101 per cent compared to the same period last year. In May, BTEA CEO, Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, revealed that more than 10,000 visitors from Russia had been attracted in the previous six months through a charter programme with Coral Travel – which operates charter flights from Moscow. Total expenditure attracted, at that time, was more than BD7 million. Another BTEA initiative to promote Bahrain as an ideal exotic weddings destination has been backed up by a series of roadshows and event participations which has borne fruit in the form of several ‘mega-weddings’ from the Indian sub-continent with more planned for the coming months. These events typically boast upwards of 500 guests and the festivities last three or four days representing a huge boost to the local economy. Venues such as Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa, the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain and the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay are regularly booked out for the wedding parties and the venues work closely with BTEA which helps ease the whole process by liaising on issues such as visas, flights with national carrier, Gulf Air, and activity programmes to showcase Bahrain’s rich heritage. On the hotel front, the Kingdom’s four- and five-star properties have seen a rise in occupancy rates on last year – 53 per cent in the five-star sector and 46 per cent for the four38 September 2019
stars, compared with 50 per cent and 42 per cent, respectively. This has led to a return of cautious optimism and Sheikh Khaled has revealed that there are 22 new hotels scheduled to open over the course of the next four years, to meet the demands of Bahrain’s growing tourism sector. The operators include Hilton Worldwide, The Address Hotels & Resorts and Shangri-La. Refurbishments across the existing stock are also ongoing, such as that at Al Areen Palace and Spa which will relaunch under the Raffles brand after a comprehensive facelift.
In another development targeting the sector, the world’s first underwater theme park was launched off the coast of Amwaj Islands. Just opened to the public, once completed it will cover an area of around 100,000sq/m. Attractions include the centrepiece, a submerged Boeing 747, as well as a replica Bahraini merchant’s house and artificial reefs, all aimed to attract marine life and make the site a draw for divers and ocean enthusiasts. Of course, all this activity is not only good for the economy, it is also beneficial to the local population. Up to 1,000 jobs were on offer at the Tourism and Services Career Expo which took place in July. The event was organised by the Labour and Social Development Ministry and positions were available across a range of fields with the 55 participating exhibitors as well as with the ministry itself. All in all, the future for Bahrain’s tourism sector looks positive with HE Zayed Al Zayani telling meed.com: “We have the fundamentals to be an international tourist destination, from the weather to the location, culture, history and modernity. The people of Bahrain have always been welcoming throughout time. We have always had good feedback from people that visit or live in Bahrain, so we have the right ingredients.”
BTEA supported the Bhatia wedding in April
FURTHER INITIATIVES • A planned VAT automated refund scheme for tourist purchases through Bahrain International Airport. • Speeded up formalities at the King Fahd Causeway border crossing to reduce congestion. • Increased flights by Gulf Air to destinations across Europe and, potentially, the USA. • Incubators and business-friendly regulations for both start-up businesses and foreign investors. • Cruise ships returning for the winter season. • Increased number of tour guides available. • New universities, such as British University of Bahrain and American University of Bahrain, attracting regional students. • Registration of Dilmun Burial Mounds bringing the Kingdom’s tally of UNESCO sites to three. www.bahrainthismonth.com
Vol.23 - Issue 9 - Your guide to a great way of life