Bahrain tourism sector to get a boost

Post F1, authorities are marketing the island as a destination of choice

A major initiative by Bahrain’s tourism industry is under way and, as a first step in this direction, an independent tourism authority is likely to be set up soon.

Spurred by the tremendous success of the Formula One race in the Kingdom, the authorities are keen to market the island as a destination of choice for the global tourist. 
The new bureau will work under the Economic Development Board (EDB) and will regulate and develop the industry and market the country internationally. Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who also heads the EDB, said recently that the board will soon come out with ‘fantastic plans’ to reactivate Bahrain’s tourism sector.
“Tourism is one of the most important economic activities which helps diversify the country’s income resources and provide more job opportunities for the citizens,” he said. “Bahrain possesses all elements to attract tourism. We want the media to tell the world this true story in a positive way.”
The private sector will also be involved in the new strategy in a big way, officials added. According to a source, the new authority would be responsible for issuing licences, laying down rules and regulations; regulating the tourism cluster; promoting and developing the tourism sector; promoting and marketing Bahrain in a proper and professional manner; attracting investment for new tourism projects; and conducting research and feasibility studies related to tourism.
There is also a suggestion to include a majority of the board members from the private sector, headed by a competent, experienced professional chief executive from the industry.
“If this happens, it will signal the rebirth of the tourism sector in Bahrain,” said Bahrain Hotels Company managing director Mohammed Buzizi.
Meanwhile, tourism infrastructure projects are coming up all around the island nation. Sky-kissing towers, luxurious resorts, green golf clubs, massive man-made island developments and huge malls are being built or are currently on drawing boards. Many of the existing hotels are also undergoing expansion and refurbishment.
Bahrain International Airport is to undergo a BD125 million ($332 million) expansion over the next three years, which will enable it to receive the new 500-passenger A380 super-jumbo jets. The passenger terminal will include ten additional aircraft parking stands and eight air-bridges. The airport currently has 46 parking stands and seven air-bridges.
A multi-storey car park and retail and office complex will also be built at the existing public car park at airport.  Designs are in the final stages for the new BD30-million-plus complex, which will accommodate up to 4,000 cars and will be linked to the main passenger terminal.
Work is also under way on the $1 billion Durrat Al Bahrain city resort. The 20 sq km project comprises 13 different islands, with about 2,000 villas, 2,000 apartments, luxury hotels, restaurants, marina, and an 18-hole golf course. Also, work on the Amwaj Islands is gathering momentum with the first hotel on the islands due to break ground soon.
In addition, an estimated $1 billion Bahrain equestrian and horse racing club project is also being planned and this will include a hotel, mall, villas and apartments. A $300 million golf resort is to be developed in Riffa by a joint venture between the First Islamic Investment Bank (FIIB) and the Bahrain International Golf Course Company. A A Janahi Holdings is to build the BD75 million beach resort in Budaiya over an area 800,000 sq m at Al Dafna Al Hamra. It will feature a luxury hotel, a large park, a marina for yachts, restaurants and around 1,000 furnished flats. Work on the project is expected to start this year for completion by 2007.
Keeping pace with these recent developments, the passenger traffic passing through Bahrain International Airport (BIA) has soared to a record high of 2.6 million passengers using the airport in the first half of the year – and 11 per cent increase compared to the same period during last year. Not surprising then that passenger traffic is expected to reach six million by the end of the year, compared to last year’s 5.1 million.