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Bahrain port operator hopes to double cruise passenger arrivals

Two to three cruise ships arrive in Bahrain every other Monday, carrying between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers Bahrain News Agency
Two to three cruise ships arrive in Bahrain every other Monday, carrying between 8,000 and 10,000 passengers
  • Target 232,000 cruise passengers
  • Aiming for 12% of GDP from tourism
  • Visitor numbers in H1 2023 up 50%

The operator of Bahrain’s biggest port has held discussions with international tour operators to try to double the number of cruise passengers visiting the kingdom next season.

Khalifa Bin Salman Port is operated by APM Terminals Bahrain. It welcomed more than 116,000 cruise passengers in the last six-month season, which ran from October to March, a fourfold increase on the previous season’s visitor numbers.

The port’s managing director, Matthew Luckhurst, told AGBI two and sometimes three cruise ships were arriving on the shores of the kingdom every other Monday, carrying in the region of 8,000 to 10,000 passengers.

The ships were operated by seven different cruise companies from Switzerland, Germany, the US, Monaco, France and Norway.

Luckhurst said he would like to see passenger numbers double again: “We have the capacity to do it.

“We are talking to other cruise operators regionally and globally to try and expand the number of cruise operators that would like to call at Bahrain.”

Cruise ships visiting Bahrain are predominantly part of Gulf-wide package tours that stay in the kingdom for a day before carrying on to other countries in the GCC.

“Ideally, what we would like to see is those cruise liners doing an overnight stay or multi-day stay, so disembarking and embarkation through the airport and our facility,” Luckhurst said.

The Bahrain Economic Development Board and the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority are both working on plans to make this a reality, Luckhurst said.

Bahrain welcomed nearly 6 million visitors during the first six months of 2023, a 50 percent increase on the same period in 2022, when 3.9 million tourists visited the country.

Tourism made up 7 percent of Bahrain’s GDP in 2022. The country’s minister of tourism, Fatima Al Sairafi, told AGBI the plan was to increase that by as much as 5 percentage points.

Under the kingdom’s five-year economic recovery plan created in 2021, Bahrain is aiming to increase the total number of tourists to 14.1 million by 2026 and the average daily visitor spends to BHD74.8 ($198), and raise the average tourist’s stay to 3½ days.

Cruise tourism contributed $138 billion to the global economy in 2022, supporting 1.2 million jobs, up by 4 percent since 2019, a report from the Cruise Lines International Association said.

The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority participated in the Seatrade Cruise Global 2024 in Miami last month, where it promoted opportunities for cruise ships and yachts to dock in the kingdom.

Bahrain’s capital, Manama, has been designated the “Capital of Gulf Tourism” for 2024.

The future of tourism will be a key discussion at the four-day annual Arabian Travel Market, the region’s biggest travel and hospitality exhibition, which opens in Dubai on May 6.

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