Bahrain prepares for a bounce back
Tourism in Bahrain has witnessed one of its most challenging years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the travel restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus. However, the International Monetary Fund released new figures projecting Bahrain’s economy will grow by 3.3 per cent in 2021, driven by its quick policy response to minimise the impact of the pandemic. This has included rapid and widespread access to vaccinations and salary subsidies.
With the upcoming Formula 1 Grand Prix, the recent launch of a digital Covid vaccine passport, unveiling of the new passenger terminal in Manama and the anticipated opening of the Saudi Causeway on May 17, it is anticipated that Bahrain’s tourism sector will see a bounce back this year, with experts anticipating a full rebound by 2024.
On January 28 this year, Bahrain marked the launch of operations at its new passenger terminal with an operational test flight taking off to Abu Dhabi International Airport, carrying an official delegation to the UAE.
The new terminal marked the completion of the first phase of the airport modernisation project that aims to stimulate Bahrain’s economic growth in line with the country’s Economic Vision 2030 by raising the airport’s strategic importance.
The terminal, which is the largest green facility in the kingdom that has earned a Leed gold certification, has been expanded with a funding of Dh3.7 billion ($1 billion) from Abu Dhabi Fund for Development. It is four times the size of the old terminal and designed to deliver a more personal, Bahraini feel.
Equipped with the latest technologies in the market and supported by new infrastructure, it will increase the airport’s capacity to 14 million passengers per year, delivering a hassle-free airport experience and the highest standards of luxury.
A ‘NEW BAHRAIN’
Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) has launched several campaigns regionally to excite tourists to come back to Bahrain and experience a ‘New Bahrain’. Dr Nasser Ali Yousef, CEO of BTEA since October has said in a previous interview, “We have promoted several attractions that are usually not visited by regional visitors, focusing on the link between Bahrain and the Gulf and encouraging them to experience the Kingdom while taking safety measures.
“On the international front, there are several collaborations with our national carrier Gulf Air, with the cooperation of local travel partners, to offer the best available packages to promote Bahrain to international markets.”
BTEA has multiple projects that target waterfronts and beaches to develop as part of its 2020-2022 strategy in different locations.
In the MICE industry, the new exhibitions and conventions centre located in Sakhir is set to be the largest in the region and will be completed during 2022. “We are planning to promote BTEA’s new Expo City, through the MICE exhibitions that will be held in late 2021 to explore major events and conferences for the near future.
“In addition, there are several MICE groups which have rescheduled their trips to Bahrain from 2020 to 2021.
“We also have several high-profile destination weddings and occasions planned for 2021, which will showcase Bahrain as an island wedding destination in several markets. Of course, all events will be held under the safety measures and the national task force protocols at the time,” he said.
The defining characteristic of Bahrain as a country and an economy is its openness. Bahrain is the only country in the Middle East that is highly multi-cultural, with unmatched tolerance in religion and backgrounds. There is plenty to do and see in Bahrain and more than 20,000 hotel rooms for tourists.
COVID VACCINE PASSPORT
Last month, Bahrain became one of the first countries in the world to launch a digital Covid vaccine passport. The country's BeAware app enables individuals to show their immunity status two weeks after receiving both doses of the jab, when antibodies have started developing. The green 'Covid-19 Vaccinated' shield is accompanied by an official certificate detailing the users' name, date of birth, nationality and which vaccine they received.
The Kingdom – which is just 40 minutes’ drive away from Saudi Arabia via bridge – hit the headlines last month after opening free vaccine appointments to the entire nation, offering all citizens and residents a choice of jab.
The approach is different to other nations where only high-risk individuals can book appointments, or citizens are contacted by officials with pre-arranged times.
The Kingdom has also made available a rapid testing service which can diagnose Covid-19 in 15 minutes without the need for a specialist laboratory.
* With inputs from Naman Arora
Additional PCR tests required
All travellers are required to undergo an additional Covid-19 PCR test on the fifth day after arrival into Bahrain, in addition to the mandatory tests on arrival.
Under the updated measures, travellers spending more than 10 days in the kingdom are obliged to take a third mandatory Covd-19 PCR test on the 10th day of stay. Appointments for the Covid-19 PCR tests to be taken on the 5th and 10th day, should be booked using the ‘BeAware Bahrain’ app.
Travellers are required to shoulder the cost of mandatory Covid-19 testing, which has been reduced to BD36 ($95), and are required to self-isolate until a negative test result is issued following the on-arrival testing.