Bahrain’s tourism development is in full swing, with the country breaking into new tourism facets. Tatiana Tsierkezou investigates.
Eager to impress, Bahrain, the island-country, is a fast-developing, yet modest, tourism player.
Traditionally known as a key location for business travellers, it is also a popular choice among its GCC neighbours for weekend leisure escapes, with an eclectic portfolio of experiences available to visitors.
“Bahrain has displayed strong and sustainable growth over recent years and has positioned itself as a perfect gateway in the Middle East for both leisure and business,” general manager, Swiss-Belhotel Seef Bahrain, Herve Peyre told TTG.
Outlining its appeal, he added: “Bahrain hosts a number of world-class events including the Formula One Grand Prix. It also has strong cultural heritage to propose to visitors such as forts, traditional souks, museums and much more. Business-friendly laws and governance make it one of the most open economies in the Middle East.”
Bahrain’s tourism stakeholders have expressed confidence in the destination with regards to its appeal to culture junkies and recreational travellers, as noted by assistant general manager, The Domain Hotel and Spa, Stephen Daniel.
“Bahrain does shape itself for business travellers but let us not forget the rich heritage that is available for one to explore when in Bahrain,” he said, adding: “There is so much for one to reach out and find the richness of culture and tradition that Bahrain offers to every individual traveller that visits this beautiful Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, catering to the demands of a niche market – golf enthusiasts – Bahrain’s The Royal Golf Club is also an attraction for those wishing to tee-off in style, while offering various other options to spectators or those simply wishing to relax and unwind.
Speaking to TTG was general manager, The Royal Golf Club, Stephen Havrilla: “Non-members are very welcome to book a round of golf and there is plenty for non-golfers to enjoy too; golf lessons, restaurants and a country club featuring gyms, saunas and more.”
Havrilla explained that The Royal Golf Club is working with golf-specific operators to include Bahrain as a destination stop within the GCC region.
“We have also developed ‘Stay & Play’ golf and accommodation packages with a number of Bahrain hotels, which golfers from the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia have taken advantage of,” he noted.
With regards to the golf club’s feeder markets, Havrilla explained that The Royal Golf Club has been focusing on direct feeder markets to which Bahrain’s national airline, Gulf Air, connects.
“These markets include France, Germany, the UK and Russia. We are also focused on the cruise ship market and we have seen increased numbers for 2016 with Bahrain being a port of choice for many markets.”
CAPITALISING ON POTENTIAL
And with Havrilla touching upon a segment that could potentially ring in a new era for tourism on the island-country, indeed, cruising is a focus for the destination, with Bahrain having recently become the latest country to confirm its commitment to the Cruise Arabia Alliance, joining Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Qatar and Oman. This exciting news was announced at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum 2015 held in Doha last December, where Bahrain also announced that it would be embracing 68,000 passengers and 32 calls throughout the 2015/16 cruising season.
As for other exciting pipeline developments in the country, according to Peyre of Swiss-Belhotel Seef Bahrain, there is much to look forward to in the destination’s tourism future.
“Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism is currently working on a five-year plan to boost the number of visitors. This includes a new exhibition and convention centre; a new beach in the heart of Manama; but also improvement of the communication abroad tightening up with The Economic Development Board (EDB).”
He further shared with TTG that a new mega urban project is currently under development, entitled ‘Marassi Al Bahrain’.
“It will include private residential facilities, hotels, a lifestyle mall offering high-end retail options, a world-class waterfront boardwalk promenade and parks. Business Bay is another project underway and will comprise of commercial and residential facilities.”
Also speaking to TTG about the country’s development initiatives was CEO, Farhat International Tours & Travels, Mushtak Abdul Gafoor: “The government of Bahrain has been constantly implementing many projects in Bahrain which will bring lots of new visitors to this archipelago. Currently, we can see development in all the areas. Recently, the government concluded projects like Little India in Manama City Centre. Shop Bahrain is going on right now, and last month Dragon Mart was inaugurated.”
BEST OF THE BEST
Explaining that the growth numbers over the last couple of years prove Bahrain’s tourism prospects are bright, he added: “We all anticipate a higher number of visitors in the coming years and this assumption is backed by leading hotel chains like One & Only, Starwood, Four Seasons, Accor and Rotana. Most of the elite groups of worldwide hotels have either already opened or are launching their properties shortly.”
Another example of this is the arrival of Anantara by Minor Hotel Group, which will be unleashing the highly luxurious waterfront Anantara Durrat Al Bahrain Resort in 2018, in partnership with Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company.
Meanwhile, Wyndham Hotel Group, which currently has two properties in Manama (Days Hotel Manama and Ramada Bahrain), will soon be boosting its footprint with four hotels: Ramada Manama City Centre, Ramada Hotel & Suites Amwaj Island, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Al Juffair and finally the Wyndham Grand Manama. This will push its portfolio in the country to six hotels, contributing a total of 1,197 rooms.
Eager to share his confidence, Peyre concluded to TTG by noting: “Thanks to the upcoming development projects, there is no doubt that Bahrain will strengthen its position on the tourism scene over the coming years.”
With all of these game-changing developments in the pipeline, 2016 will prove to be an exciting year for Bahrain.