The cruise segment is taking centre-stage at the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2014. The region’s cruise sector had witnessed a decline since the global downturn. However with significant infrastructure investment, easing visa regulations and creative marketing, the cruise sector is bouncing-back.
“Regional governments have invested into the infrastructure required to develop cruise tourism, which is bringing growing confidence to the market,” said Mark Walsh, portfolio director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.
One challenge that the region faced was the lack of ports of call and location of cruise facilities. In response, Mina Zayed Port in Abu Dhabi is currently undergoing major redevelopment creating a dedicated cruise terminal. Dubai has been upgrading Port Rashid to accommodate seven vessels simultaneously, up from the current five, as part of its strategy to attract 450,000 cruise tourists by 2016.
Bahrain is restarting US$80 million worth of mixed-use projects at the Muharraq coastal site and King Fasial Corniche seafront. Oman plans a new 100-berth marina project as part of the Jebel Sifah development and in Aqaba, Jordan, phase one of the Marsa Zayed project will be completed in 2015 at a cost of over US$ 815 million.
Relaxed visa requirements have also helped the cruise sector, especially when multiple ports of call are a part of the cruise agenda. “Tailor-made cruises are trending at the moment and growth in that segment is expected moving forward, creating potential new partnerships between cruise companies and bespoke local tour operators,” added Walsh.
The cruise pavilion has more than doubled in size to almost 200 square metres since last year. Exhibitors include, Royal Caribbean, Al Marsa Musandam Diving & Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises from Spain and Pearl Marketing Reps from UK and Cruise Arabia amongst others.