Bahrain sees record number of Saudi visitors
Manama, July 1, 2013
More than 300,000 travellers crossed into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia over the weekend - the highest number in over 20 years, a report said.
The unprecedented spike comes as Saudi Arabia switched its weekend to Friday and Saturday to align itself with the rest of the region, according to the report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
However, to ease its nationals into the new system, a Royal decree was issued to give people a three-day weekend, which caused the rush.
A total of 314,604 crossed the border between last Wednesday night and Saturday night - the highest number since the King Fahad Causeway opened in 1986.
An official from the General Directorate of Nationality, Immigration and Passports said a total of 54,962 passengers left Bahrain through the causeway on Saturday alone, making it the highest number of people to leave the country in a single day.
"Customs authorities increased staff, opened extra lanes and reduced the waiting period," he said.
The rush of visitors also created a business boost as shopping malls and hotels were packed with Saudis.
"We had a 28 per cent increase in visitors this weekend," said Seef Mall assistant marketing manager Fatima Al Bustani.
"We noticed a significant increase in activity within the mall, with more visitors Thursday than the previous week. However, we had more visitors on Friday than Thursday."
Five-star hotels also reported a massive increase in business, with most being fully booked, according to a top official.
"All five-star hotels were, to my knowledge, completely booked," said Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa chief executive Abdulrahman Al Morshed.
"On Thursday and Friday, it was absolutely full at the Diplomat. Even food and beverages were exceptionally full, and the place was buzzing. I came in on Friday myself and I saw something I hadn't seen in a long while.
"There were so many people in the hotel that the only way I could describe it was that it felt like a busy airport."
Al Morshed hopes the trend would continue.
"I hope it's going to continue. We have reason to believe that it will with the change in the Saudi weekend," he said.
"We also heard there were delays on the causeway, and some people changed their mind and turned back. Once that's running smoothly, we hope for an even bigger increase in customers,” he added. – TradeArabia News Service