Bahrain charts higher profile

The Muharraq Causeway.

Bahrain's cultural and historical attractions and the growing number of major tourism projects taking shape will be the focus of the kingdom's presence at the ATM this month.

A significantly larger official pavilion at the ATM along with the return of Bahrain-based Gulf Air will ensure a higher profile for the kingdom as it pursues its recently launched family tourism drive as well as its appeal as a meetings and incentives destination in the region.

"We aim to intensify our presence in any event which we believe will directly serve the kingdom and maintain its status as a leading tourism location, and open new opportunities," said Bader Nasser, the head of tourism marketing at Bahrain Tourism Affairs.

Tourism Affairs has increased the size of the official pavilion from 95 sq m last year to 120 sq m this year while Gulf Air is back at the ATM in a big way with a 94.5 sq m stand.

Nasser said ATM was a perfect venue to promote the kingdom's annual summer campaign tailored towards attracting GCC families to Bahrain.

Bahrain recorded a significant growth in tourist arrivals last year despite the setbacks worldwide in the last quarter following the September 11 attacks in the US.

Over the past five years, tourist arrivals in Bahrain have nearly doubled from 2.6 million in 1997 to 4.3 million last year. Arrivals last year were also significantly higher than the 3.86 million visitors recorded in 2000, a 13.42 per cent increase over the year.

"The tourism sector is becoming a thriving industry in the region, and as far as the kingdom's tourism is concerned, we have certainly witnessed remarkable developments and prosperity," said Nasser.

However, he added regional tourism would get a bigger boost if GCC countries united to promote the Gulf as a single destination.

Bahrain is increasingly recognised as a major MICE destination in the region, and Nasser suggested that a specialised show focusing on specific sectors such as MICE would "stimulate better benefits regionally".

The kingdom's appeal as a regional destination has been sharply increased with several new major tourism projects such as the $30 million Al Dana Resort, a 180-chalet property which is expected to open later this year.

Other projects coming up over the next few years include the Durrat Al Bahrain, Amwaj island project, a Formula One race track and new shopping malls.