Big cruise ships return to Bahrain
Manama, November 8, 2011
Bahrain's economy is set to receive a major boost from cruise tourism as around 32,000 tourists are expected to visit throughout the season, which being next month and runs until March.
One of the world's largest cruise ships, the Aida Blu V, will make 14 calls starting on December 14, said its local agent Al Sharif Group assistant shipping manager Hassan Al Sharif.
"Each trip will have between 2,000 and 2,300 cruise passengers on board, who will spend a day in Bahrain and visit its various tourist attractions. This is very good news for Bahrain and a stamp of approval on its standing as a major port of call for cruise ships.
"While some cruise companies have taken Bahrain off their itineraries this year, citing the uncertain political situation, the Aida's vote of confidence will be a major boost."
Al Sharif said Aida representatives spoke highly about Bahrain during recent shipping conferences in the UAE and in Germany.
"They were unequivocal in their support of Bahrain as an ideal tourist destination and urged companies not to take Bahrain off their ports of call list," he said.
Mathias Tourism managing director Richard Mathias, whose company promotes Bahrain to the cruise industry worldwide and handles onshore trips in Bahrain, said Aida had remained loyal to Bahrain throughout its troubles.
"They had expressed a willingness to maintain Bahrain as a destination as early as August, in spite of several other companies cancelling trips after the unrest in February and March," he said.
Bahrain's cruise season between November 2009 and April 2010 saw 50 port calls by major cruise liners. However, only 29 took place between last November and February after anti-government protests erupted.
Costa Cruises, which had scheduled 30 visits, skipped Bahrain and opted for Khasab in Oman instead. Tour operators said the cancellations meant losses of at least $5 million in tourist spending alone.
Mathias earlier said estimates showed each tourist on a cruise ship spent at least $125 in Bahrain. He said his company had been forced to dispense with the services of at least 50 bus drivers, as well as 30 guides as a result of the unrest.
Taxi drivers and others who benefited from the cruise tourism season were also affected.
The Gulf Daily News reported last year that Bahrain could be set for a $21m (BD7.9m) windfall as a result of the country's booming cruise ship industry.
Every vessel that berths in Bahrain could be worth around $300,000 to the economy, according to Seatrade Middle East. It said that the cruise industry in Bahrain was only just taking off in a big way and was likely to do very well in the future. - TradeArabia News Service