Their country, our opportunity
A new, unified focus on tourism as an industry brings growth to the sector
Bahrain is seeing a substantial increase in visits to its islands for business or leisure, states Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, CEO of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA): “Tourist numbers grew from 9.7 million in 2015 to 11.4 million in 2017, a 17.5 percent increase.
Over the same time, average length of stay went up 24.8 percent to 2.8 nights.” Also since 2015, “Tourism has doubled its contribution to almost seven percent of our gross domestic product,” says Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Zayed R. Alzayani. His ministry’s goal is to make Bahrain more business-friendly and, for tourism, this has included redrafting laws relating to the sector and creating the independent institution BTEA. “In the past, various organizations promoted Bahrain,” explains Al Khalifa; “Now, everything is under BTEA’S umbrella and we have a unified message—“ours. Yours”—reflecting Bahrainis and their hospitality.”
A strategy for continued success
BTEA’S strategy for the continued development of tourism is based on “four As: attractions, accessibility, accommodation and awareness,” says Al Khalifa. Having existed for 5,000 years, Bahrain already has plenty of unique attractions, such as ancient remains, bustling markets and pearl diving. But it is also developing new ones, he notes, “BTEA has invested in a development company that focuses on projects like new beaches and waterfront properties. “We are also building a new exhibition center which, once functional in 2021, will be the largest in the Middle East.”
This center will allow Bahrain to host more large-scale events. Created by BTEA alone, or with private-sector partners, these are a key aspect of the country’s tourism offering. Its 2017 Disney Show, for example, attracted 27,000 people to Bahrain.
To make its attractions more accessible, Bahrain is improving its flight network, starting charter flights, has upgraded the King Fahd Causeway road link to Saudi Arabia, is offering visas on arrival to Chinese and Russian citizens and is looking at enhanced 72-hour visas to encourage stop-overs. “Additionally, we have to make sure Bahraini accommodation fits visitors’ needs and demand, from more family-oriented hotel apartments to multi-star beach resorts,” notes Al Khalifa. BTEA started awareness building by opening seven offices around the world and carrying out hugely successful business-to-business promotions that have created a boom in connections with tour operators and travel agents. Consumer awareness is also being boosted by heavily advertising on top television channels and websites, such as the Saudi booking agency almosafer.com, where a promotion on just one evening resulted in 8,000 nights being booked. However, Al Khalifa believes that the kingdom’s biggest promotional tool is its citizens: “They are open minded and welcoming to all. So, come to Bahrain—because what is ours, is yours.”
Investment in water and energy
“Within five years, we expect investment of around $4 billion in electricity, water and renewables. We currently have sufficient electricity and water, mostly from the private sector, but demand could grow by at least 6 percent a year. Therefore, we are increasing capacities at our Al-dur
Dr. Abdul-hussain Ali Mirza Minister of Electricity and Water Affairs
water and power plant, for which we are now receiving and evaluating bids. A major goal is to be a leader in green energy, so I have created a center for renewable and efficient energy, and our aim is to stop relying 100 percent on gas by moving to 10 percent solar and wind, and then increasing the share of renewables progressively.”
CEO, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa
Zayed R. Alzayani Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism