Bahrain targets new markets

After a successful outing at the ITB Berlin, Bahrain's assistant undersecretary for Tourism Affairs, MUBARAK AL ATWI spoke to ASHOK THOMAS about the benefits of the fair and the prospects and future of tourism in the Kingdom.
Mubarak Al Atwi.

Q. What steps has Bahrain taken recently to improve tourism arrivals and project Bahrain's image as a tourism destination worldwide?

A. The concerned tourism authorities in the Kingdom, whether public or private, have collaborated unitedly to launch a powerful promotion campaign and many other efforts to market Bahrain as the promising destination in the region. In other words, a plan has been set up for this purpose and it is based an objectives that are clear and transparent. Some of these objectives which are worthy of mentioning are:

• Initiating plans to increase air traffic from Bahrain to the rest of the world;

• Designing attractive packages to suit all kinds of needs of the visiting tourists;

• Attracting more direct investments and that is, by intensifying the participation of the Kingdom in prominent international expos and symposiums, in which many major investors usually tend to visit.

• Launching promotional campaigns, which actively stimulate the correct awareness and actively target selective tourists, such as families and MICE visitors.

Q. Could you provide an idea of tourist numbers over the past two or three years?

A. Tourists into Bahrain have posted a steady rise over the last few years with double digit percentage growth regularly.

If you look at numbers the total incoming in 2002 (4.83 million) is almost double what it used to be in 1997.

Q. Concerning Bahrain's presence at the ITB Fair, how important is it for Bahrain to have a presence at these kind of events? Any immediate benefits from ITB 2003?

A. Of course, the participation of the Kingdom in international expos such as the ITB Fair is considered essential and unavoidable. Our participation at ITB mainly underlines the genuineness of tourism in Bahrain and accentuates its commitment to the global tourism industry.

Moreover, the massive scale of ITB, as a major tourism and travel event, offers excellent exposure for the participating Bahraini delegation to actively promote the Kingdom's rich cultural traditions and values. It is also worthy to mention that at ITB (Berlin) there is a wide scope for investment opportunities and therefore, the possibility for promoting and attracting potential projects becomes more accessible.

Today, the role performed by the Internet and the media in promoting the tourism product is appreciable in many ways, but one can never overlook the significance of direct "face-to-face" interaction with quality representatives from the tourism industry, which can only be possible by actually participating in events, like ITB (Berlin). Yes, we are delighted to say that ITB 2003 has brought about appreciable benefits, which include initiation of close trade alliance between Germany and the Kingdom, which in turn is expected to attract a multi-million dollars German investment in different projects planned in Bahrain. The presentation of Formula 1 in ITB (Berlin) was also a success, because it drew the attention of thousands of prospective visitors and investors.

Q. Could you provide a brief description about any new tourist infrastructure being put into place in Bahrain?

A. Al Dana Bahrain Resort, which is given a 4-star rating, is scheduled for opening very soon. This $30 million project comprises of 180 chalets, spa beach, swimming pool, restaurants and a health club.

Q. Which are Bahrain's principal target markets as far as tourism is concerned?

A. The main target markets for Bahrain are the family and MICE visitors, which in our opinion represents the best segments which bring about lasting benefits over the long-run, rather than the fast booms, which usually results from mass tourism, but causes damage to the image of tourism.