Their coun­try, our op­por­tu­nity

A new, uni­fied fo­cus on tourism as an in­dus­try brings growth to the sec­tor

Newsweek - - Bahrain -

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 al­, 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

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