Bahrain eyes 70,000 cruise tourists
Manama, November 10, 2012
Bahrain is expecting more than 70,000 tourists as five major cruise ships will dock here this season. The first group of more than 2,500 visitors arrived in the country yesterday.
Tourists yesterday gave Bahrain the thumbs up as the first liner of the cruise season, Mein Schiff 2, docked at Khalifa Bin Salman Port, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
The passengers were given a grand welcome by Tourism and Culture Ministry officials accompanied by the Interior Ministry music band, traditional Bahraini performers and other government officials.
The vistors were later taken to some of the country's top tourist destinations including Bahrain Fort, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain National Museum and Beit Al Quran.
Operated by TUI Cruises, the ship is planning to dock in Bahrain 19 more times throughout the season, which runs until March.
"This season, which started yesterday, will continue until March 10," said a Culture Ministry spokesman. "We are expecting more than 70,000 people to come to Bahrain during these visits."
"TUI Cruises came to Bahrain for the first time and all were excited about the visit. We are going to have Aida Blu coming to Bahrain on November 21. This is a good sign and we hope to continue this for the rest of the season," he noted.
"We have five tourism companies working this year as compared to three last year, which is definitely a boost to the economy.
"We are showcasing Bahrain to the world and showing our heritage and culture to Europeans, who are very excited to know about the kingdom, its people and history," the spokesman said.
The visit by Mein Schiff 2 will be followed by Zegrahm's Clipper Odyssey on Sunday and one of the world's largest cruise ships, the Aida Blu V, on November 21.
Mathias Tourism Company managing director Richard Mathias said the tourists enjoyed the day-long sight-seeing activities.
"I am glad they came to Bahrain," he said.
"There were 26 buses and tour guides who spoke German and English and we took them to various tourist attractions."
The Mein Schiff 2 is making 20 calls to Bahrain and the Aida Blu 13. Other ships include MS Astor, Fred Olsen Cruises and the Clipper Odyssey, which will make one call each.
There were fears Bahrain's cruise industry could be crippled by increasing costs of insuring vessels that dock here due to unrest, after it emerged each cruise operator could have to pay an additional $300,000 over the course of a season.
However, a raft of incentives were introduced to offset the higher insurance premiums facing operators.
This included halving port fees, discounts from tourism companies worth tens of thousands of dinars and a reduction in passenger charges at port operator APM Terminals.
Bahrain's cruise industry, which once boasted 50 visits by major cruise liners, has been hit hard by political turmoil since February last year.
Only 29 of the scheduled 50 port calls by various liners were made to Bahrain in the 2010-2011 season, which was abruptly suspended because of protests - resulting in a loss of nearly 50,000 tourists.
Every vessel that berths in Bahrain is estimated to be worth around $300,000 to the economy.-TradeArabia News Service