Middle East Readies for Cruise Industry Jump

By MarEx 2013-12-19 19:56:00

Significant port expansion plans for the cruise industry were outlined at a recent industry forum in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Ras Al Khaimah all spoke of port expansion plans that would enable the region to grow its share of the lucrative cruise market.

Mohamed Juma al Shamisi, Acting CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Company said: “This season - 2013/2014 - we are expecting more than 76 ship calls, including ten maiden arrivals and a visit from Cunard’s latest luxury flagship Queen Elizabeth. The new cruise terminal is a significant investment and offers a much improved customer experience. As both port owner and terminal operator – we have expanded both our range of ancillary and marine services to meet the specific needs of visiting cruise ships as well as improved access to the port with Gate No 2 at Zayed Port dedicated to serve traffic to the cruise lines. But this is only the beginning.”

From the Qatar Tourism Authority, HE Issa Al Mohannadi, chairman, expanded on Qatar’s cruise ambitions as part of a strategy to attract seven million visitors annually by 2030.  He said that commercial port activities would be relocated to a new site outside of the capital Doha in 2016, at which time the existing facility would be redeveloped with increased draught to 12 metres to act as a dedicated cruise tourism port - with the bonus of a location within walking distance of the iconic Museum of Modern Art.

“With Dubai hosting Expo 2020, there will be significant focus on the region and this gives us an opportunity to collaborate and use cruise as a link between the destinations to attract a bigger number of visitors,” he said.

Port development is also underway in Oman. Director General of Tourism Development at the Ministry of Tourism, Salim Al Mamari, confirmed that Sultan Qaboos port would cease to cater for cargo vessels from August 2014, with redevelopment covering three new cruise berths, ferry and marina berths, hotels, souks, restaurants and other tourism facilities.

Expansion is also planned for Salalah with a separate cruise terminal, while Khasab port in Musandam in the north was being re-designed with additional facilities for cruise ships, he added.

In other developments around the region, Dubai is pushing ahead with a new terminal, according to Hamad bin Mejren, executive director of business tourism at the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, Government of Dubai. He said the new facility at Mina Rashid would be operational in the first quarter of 2014 and would be four times the size of the current terminal.

In addition, director, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Investment & Development Authority, Khalid Motik, said his Emirate is keen to learn more from the cruise line representatives on their requirements for additional ports of call in the region, revealing that a cruise facility at Mina Saqr was planned for launch by 2016/17.

HE Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority Abu Dhabi, said: “I am delighted to announce that the current temporary cruise terminal at Mina Zayed will now become the site of the permanent one. The concept design will be announced in Q1 2014.” Once finished, the permanent port will have capacity for three to four cruise ships at one time.

Both assistant under-secretary of Bahrain, HE Shaikh Khalid bin Humood Al Khalifa and Khalid Jasem Al Midfa, director general of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority supported the formation of a regional committee to meet regularly to discuss issues including the creation of diverse shore itineraries as well as liaison with both cruise companies and their potential passengers, a suggestion endorsed by Oman’s Salim Al Mamari, director general of tourism promotion, Ministry of Tourism, Sultanate of Oman.

The Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, Abu Dhabi, was attended by global cruise line executives, regional ministers and tourism leaders.