MANAMA: The tourism industry in the Kingdom of Bahrain is growing rapidly and is expected to reach US$1 billion by 2020, according to figures released ahead of Arabian Travel Market 2017, which takes place at the Dubai World Trade Centre April 24-27.
Bahrain witnessed an 8.4% increase in inbound traffic in the third quarter of 2016 and a peak of 1.4 million arrivals during the month of August. With the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) spearheading a robust marketing campaign, the Kingdom expects to welcome 15.8 million annual visitors by 2018. This will represent an increase of 36.2% on current figures and will place the country’s tourism industry on track to reach its $1 billion 2020 target.
“The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority has engaged with a number of public authorities and private sector organisations over recent months and the returns are beginning to be realised. “The BTEA now operates seven official representation offices worldwide, with a focus on source markets in Europe and Asia, and will continue to work hand-in-hand with hotels, tour operators and cruise lines to achieve its objectives,” Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, ATM, said.
This phenomenal growth will be driven primarily by the leisure sector, which should rise in terms of value by 4.3% per annum to BHD 1.2 billion in 2026. While business arrivals will generate BHD 219.3 million per annum by 2026. As activity continues to increase, GDP contributions from tourism will also rise, from the 10.6% contribution witnessed in 2015 to a predicted 13% contribution towards GDP in 2026.
The news comes as inbound investment into Bahrain’s tourism infrastructure reaches new heights. From funding totaling BHD 105.3 million in 2015 – representing 5.3% of total investment that year – investment is expected to reach BHD 217.9 million in 2026, which will be 8.6% of the national total.
The $1.1 billion Airport Modernisation Programme (AMP) at Bahrain International Airport will double capacity from 7 million to 14 million passengers per year, by Q2 2020. STR Global estimates that there is currently, 12,641 rooms and a pipeline of 4,187 rooms, an increase of 33.1% in hotel stock over the coming years.
Promoting its hotels, leisure attractions and investment opportunities, the Kingdom of Bahrain will enjoy a strong presence at ATM 2017, with several exhibitors participating. These include the Kingdom of Bahrain Tourism Sector, Ministry of Culture, Sabre, Farhat International Tours & Travels WLL and the Gulf Hotel Bahrain. The country’s flagship luxury properties, such as Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay and Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa, will also be represented by their respective operators.
To drive the expected demand, BTEA’s plans for 2017 include capitalising on the leisure market, particularly the heritage and cultural aspects, regenerating beaches, targeting cruise passengers, as well as the opening of Avenues Bahrain Mall.
“The main theme of this year’s ATM is experiential travel and Bahrain is a perfect example of what this sector offers, with investment set aside for the regeneration of the historic bazaar district, Manama Souq and similar projects at Bab Al Bahrain,” Press added.
ATM – considered by many industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector – witnessed a year-on-year visitor attendance increase of 9% to over 28,500 in 2016, with 2,785 exhibiting companies, signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.
ATM 2017 will build on its success with the announcement of an additional hall as Reed Travel Exhibitions looks to add to its record-breaking achievements of 2016.