SOARING numbers in visitors to Bahrain have been given a cautious welcome by business leaders.
They say the 11 per cent increase to 4.8 million visitors recorded for the first nine months of 2005 is down more to business visitors than tourists. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation reported the increase between January and September last year, up on 4.3m visitors for the same time in 2004. The increase is well ahead of the average increase of 7pc across the Middle East and a 6pc rise registered in the country's main rival destination.
The figures are based on non-Bahrainis or non-residents entering the country through Bahrain International Airport, over the King Fahad Causeway from Saudi Arabia, or by sea.
UN researchers based in Madrid, Spain, conducted the study on international tourism, but Bahraini officials say it is misleading and Bahrain’s rise had more to do with business travellers and last year’s Formula One Grand Prix, than with an increase in general tourism, say business leaders. Visitors came mainly from the GCC, as well as Jordan, Egypt, the UK, US and Ireland.
“This is down to growth in business and the number of conferences, exhibitions, events and training seminars,” said Mohamed Buzizi, managing director or the Bahrain Hotels Company, which owns the Gulf Hotel. “Our capability in accommodating events is one of the reasons that has contributed to the growth in the figures. The boom in the construction industry is another factor, which makes executives from a lot of companies visit Bahrain on a frequent basis. The Grand Prix also had an important role that contributed to the growth.”
Researchers believe the trend is set to continue into 2006, despite the threat of bird flu hovering over the tourism industry.
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