Summer travel hit by Arab unrest
Manama, June 23, 2011
People in Bahrain are staying at home instead of travelling abroad for the summer, according to a leading Bahrain-based travel agent.
The travel and tourism sector has been among those hardest hit by the unrest, which saw the country's biggest tourist attraction the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix cancelled, said Bahrain International Travel general manager Paul Clabburn.
However, events such as the Summer Festival and international travel exhibitions are indications that business is slowly picking up, he added.
"The events hurt all Bahraini businesses and sectors, but now with stability returning and the national dialogue due to start next week there are positive signs for recovery," he said. "Things are not back to how they were before, but we do remain optimistic about the future."
Protests and political turmoil in the Arab world have driven Bahrain's holidaymakers to stay at home instead of visiting popular countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.
"People are not travelling in anywhere near the numbers before and a significant number of people would have left Bahrain this summer, however, in reality it is relatively small," said Clabburn.
"The majority are planning on staying at home, as they are still uncertain about what is right for them. We had hoped this summer would be much better than previous years and hoped that the market segment would have gone elsewhere but the over demand in supply has not yet happened."
Destinations such as Malaysia and Thailand are hot spots for Bahraini travellers due to the excellent value for money they offer.
Other popular holiday destinations include Oman and the UAE, which have not been affected by protests, said Clabburn.
"These two Gulf states are most favoured because they aren't overly expensive to get to and many people have family or friends who live there, so there is no extra expense for hotels," he said.
Clabburn warned that while the tourism and travel business is slowly regaining momentum, certain practices are having a serious effect on operations.
"We have grave concerns about the issue of discounted prices for certain sectors, but we remain hopeful that through the Association of Bahrain Travel and Tours Agents, we can engage in constructive dialogue to find a common ground between both parties," he said. – TradeArabia News Service