Destination Bahrain

With a range of infrastructural upgrades aimed at easing passage into the Kingdom already underway, Bahrain is now looking to invite markets from further afield. Panayiotis Markides investigates.

Long-established and well-known as a business hub, the Kingdom of Bahrain has recently been undergoing a range of infrastructural developments which have brought forth enhancements to the causeway and Bahrain International Airport. And let us not forget the recently implemented visa policy, from which it will soon reap the benefits. Consequently, this slew of advancements has the Kingdom poised for elevation in terms of its reputation and standing in the region.

Indeed, these hefty developments have been welcomed by the destination’s stakeholders, as TTG set out to discover how they will be capitalising on them.

Travel Forward 20

Commenting on Bahrain’s touristic progression, general manager, Marriott Executive Apartments Manama – Residence Inn by Marriott Manama Juffair, Michel Sursock noted that further initiatives include customs facilitation at the Saudi causeway, which should improve the in-bound volume, with the new visa regulations expected to further attract visitors to Bahrain.

This was further elaborated on by director of sales and marketing, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay, Mohammad Barakat, who told TTG: “Bahrain has always been a key tourist destination for its neighbouring states with thousands of people flocking into the country every weekend from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman to experience its recreational scene.”

The optimistic results of these developments and how they are anticipated to increase arrival numbers was expressed by general manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel and Spa, Christian Zandonella who said:“The number of visitors to the Kingdom of Bahrain are rising significantly year over year. We look forward to the enhancement of the new causeway progress as well as the airport expansion.”

Honing in on the benefits of these advancements, media and PR manager, Elite Hospitality Group, Najia Zainal added: “The expansion of the Bahrain International Airport, development of surface transport infrastructure, focus on culture and heritage, besides the expansion of theme and adventure parks that is planned in the near future, will attract various profiles of travellers making Bahrain a window to the GCC in days to come.”

According to general manager, Crowne Plaza Bahrain, Gilles Nicolas, the results are evident: “A recent survey showing weekly statistics revealed that 206,110 people arrived from Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries via the King Fahad Causeway, while 233,774 came through Bahrain International Airport and 3,684 through the Kingdom’s ports, clearly showing that we are on the right track.”

And as expansion plans at Bahrain International Airport continue to pick up speed, the destination’s national carrier, Gulf Air, reflects these significant changes aimed at delivering more visitors to Bahrain.

“Our efforts are directed at ultimately becoming an economically sustainable carrier that continues to provide valuable and strategic business links in support of the Kingdom of Bahrain’s economic development,” remarked CEO, Gulf Air, Maher Salman Al Musallam exclusively to TTG.

He added: “We believe that the launch of direct services between Manama and Moscow will have positive implications for both Bahrain and its national carrier.”

PALETTE OF DIVERSITY

With Gulf Air facilitating increased access for markets such as Russia and the UK, which appear high on the agenda, Bahrain’s hospitality segment has its eyes set on catering specifically to its new visitors’ needs.

With this in mind, Zainal added how the Elite Hospitality Group has strategised to cater to a broad range of segments: “The leisure segment is tipped to grow in Bahrain. This includes the family segment, wellness fans and people from Europe travelling for the beach.”

She remarked that each of the group’s properties boasts a comprehensive health club and spa, while the GCC market is lured by shopping and entertainment packages. “School children from neighbouring countries such as the KSA and Kuwait are being attracted through excursion packages including theme parks and adventure sports,” she told TTG.

Reiterating that the Bahraini government is focused on this particular lucrative segment, Nicolas noted: “With the government’s latest strategic plan to reposition and rebrand the destination of Bahrain, the hospitality industry will definitely have a positive impact especially in the leisure segment.”

Shedding more light on the Bahraini leisure segment, director of business development and strategy, The Gulf Hotel Bahrain, Zaher Kassir told TTG: “Night life, special events such as the famous Gulf night out, international and Arabian singers’ concerts, live entertainment in every outlet either indoor or outdoor, a walking distance to major city night life and shopping hubs are all the right attributes for a potential leisure demand.”

From time-honoured icons of hospitality to Bahrain’s newest additions, the anticipated upward curve of the destination’s tourism industry is generating positive repercussions across the lodging segment, with each property’s sense of distinction being clearly demonstrated by its respective ambassador.

Eager to showcase the upcoming Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay’s diverse offerings, Barakat informed TTG exclusively: “Monumental in design, Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay has an exceptional luxury leisure product, rising 68 stories above the bay on its own five hectare manmade island. At its base lies a sprawling layout of restaurants, meeting spaces, an enormous spa complex and beautifully landscaped pools, terraces and gardens,” adding that the balance between leisure and corporate at the property is expected to be 60-40.

“Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay targets leisure guests, especially families, single female travellers and local Bahraini residents” he said.

With the progression of a well-considered infrastructure, heavy investment in its tourism product and a strong design on European, Asian and local GCC markets, Bahrain’s travel industry is surely on target to reap the rewards.