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Bahrain reveals plans to reach 2026 visitor target

Nature, Outdoors, Sea South African hospitality group Mantis announced on Wednesday it will open a resort project on Bahrain’s Hawar Island in partnership with Edamah Mantis
South African hospitality group Mantis announced on Wednesday it will open a resort project on Bahrain’s Hawar Island in partnership with Edamah
  • Visitor numbers up 25% in 2023
  • Plan for 14m tourists and 11 new hotels
  • Unified GCC visa a ‘game changer’

Mumtalakat, Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, has been announced as a partner in the development of a new luxury island resort which will open later this year and include a water park and a Bear Grylls Survival Academy.

The opening is part of Bahrain’s wider push to expand its tourism offering – with new hotels, beaches and beach clubs – and attract more visitors to the kingdom.

Visitor numbers to the Gulf island state were up 25 percent in 2023 year on year, while revenues increased by almost one third, Fatima Al Sairafi, the kingdom’s tourism minister, told AGBI, but did not provide overall numbers.

Tourism made up 7 percent of Bahrain’s GDP in 2022 and Al Sairafi said the plan was to increase that number by as much as 5 percentage points.

This includes the addition of 11 hotels, which have been signed up by international operators, by the end of 2026.

“That just gives you an indicator that many foreign investors are very keen on investing in Bahrain. They’ve seen the potential of Bahrain as a leisure destination and a business destination as well,” Al Sairafi said.

South African hospitality group Mantis, which specialises in eco-tourism, safaris and adventure travel, announced on Wednesday it will open a resort project on Bahrain’s Hawar Island in partnership with Edamah, the real estate arm of Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company (Mumtalakat).

The luxury resort will open in the third quarter of this year and will include 102 rooms, a waterpark and an academy designed by Bear Grylls, the British television presenter and survival expert.

Person, Clothing, Footwear Tourists visiting the Qalat al-Bahrain fort and archaeological site. Tourism revenues increased by almost one third in 2023Alamy via Reuters
Tourists visiting the Qalat al-Bahrain fort and archaeological site. Tourism revenues increased by almost one third in 2023

Under the kingdom’s five-year economic recovery plan created in 2021, Bahrain is aiming to increase the total number of tourists to 14 million by 2026, the average daily visitor spends to BHD74.8 ($198) and raise the average tourist’s stay to 3.5 days.

According to data from STR, the average hotel occupancy in Manama was up by 5 percent compared to 2022.

In 2023 RevPARs (revenues per available rooms) were up nearly 2 percent compared to the previous year. However, ADRs (average daily room rates) fell by 2.7 percent to an average rate of BHD61.

Further plans include increasing the number of beach clubs from seven to 17 and the number of private beaches from 20 to 24.

“We’re working very closely with the private sector to increase the number of waterfronts in the kingdom,” said Al Sairafi.

Bahrain’s key tourist markets include China, India, Germany, the UK and the GCC – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Saudi partnership

In June last year Bahrain signed a memorandum of understanding with neighbouring Saudi Arabia to position both countries as a single regional and global tourism destination.

Saudi Arabia is currently pouring billions of dollars into its tourism industry as it tries to diversify its economy away from a reliance on hydrocarbons.

Saudi Arabia has set a lofty target of attracting 150 million visitors annually by 2030 and is due to host a number of top events including the Asian Winter Games in 2029, Expo 2030 and the Fifa World Cup in 2034.

Adult, Female, PersonBahrain News Agency
Bahrain’s tourism minister Fatima Al Sairafi says the unified GCC tourist visa could be a ‘game changer’ when it is introduced later this year or in 2025

Al Sairafi said she hoped Bahrain, which is a 45-minute drive from Saudi Arabia, could tap into the success of such attractions.

“All the developments that are happening in the region are basically complementing what’s happening in Bahrain and creating opportunities for Bahrain,” said Al Sairafi.

A unified GCC tourist visa, which will allow holders to travel across the six Gulf nations, is expected to be introduced by the end of this year or the beginning of 2025.

Al Sairafi described the move as a “game changer” for the industry.

“We’re very happy that all the GCC countries are opening the doors to tourists to actually come and see what the entire region has to offer. Although we share a similar culture, each country has its own uniqueness,” she said.

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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