New terminal to fuel cruise industry growth in Dubai


Cruise tourism in Dubai has witnessed a phenomenal growth during the last four years and, with a state-of-the-art cruise terminal in operation, it is poised to grow further, tourism industry sources say.

In 1997, the emirate began to regulate this fledgling industry through the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) by adding and upgrading facilities, such as easing visa regulations for cruise passengers and building a new cruise terminal at Port Rashid last March.

According to a DTCM official, these factors helped the sector grow fast with an increased number of cruise calls every year.

"Though the sector is still in its embryo stage, Dubai's cruise tourism has witnessed a phenomenal growth over the last four years, ever since we began to monitor it in 1997," said Charles Heath, DTCM director, projects division.

"In 1999 and 2000, the number of ships that called on Dubai was 26 in each year. This year, the number increased to 36 and the projection for the next year is 45."

The number of cruise tourists will be 14,000 by end December.

However, this is still very low compared to the huge tourism sector which receives 3.5 million visitors annually.

"At the end of the current calendar year, cruise passengers will have contributed 5,000 room-nights and bought 8,000 tour packages. We are expecting a 20 per cent growth next year on the current year's performance," said Heath.

Explaining the economic impact of a ship's call in a port, he said a cruise passenger spends 250 per cent more than an average leisure tourist and this goes into the economy of the city.

In the cruise business, there are two types of cruise calls. One is the port of call and the other is a passenger exchange programme. In the first, a ship stops over at a city for a day and passengers are allowed a day-long sightseeing tour of the city before setting forth on the onward destination.

A passenger spends $100 a day on an average on sightseeing, dining and shopping.

"But in a passenger exchange programme, where the ship stops over at the port to drop off passengers and collect new passengers for a different destination, a passenger spends $1,000 on a single day on average. Our ultimate aim is to increase the ratio of passenger exchange against ports of call," said Heath.

In 1999, of the 26 ships which called on Dubai, only six ships had passenger exchange. In 2000, 15 out of 26 ships berthed at Port Rashid had passenger exchange.

"This year, 32 out of a total of 36 ships will have passenger exchange. Next year, 41 out of 45 ships are booked for passenger exchange," said Heath.

The economy also benefits from the length of a ship's stay in a port as passengers book tour packages and spend money on shopping. In 1997, the average stay of a ship in Dubai was 0.8 days, which rose to 1.02 days the following year.

In 1999 and 2000, it rose to 1.23 and 2.05 days respectively.