In a keynote address to cruise line executives and regional industry stakeholders at the opening session of Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) confirmed that Dubai remains on track to receive one million cruise passengers by 2020.
Addressing delegates, he also referenced DCTCM’s plan to ensure that cruise passengers felt the ‘soul’ of Dubai and there would be an extra concentration on excursions that show the heritage of the city and its older parts…as well as the more modern areas and attractions.
Next to the stage was Esam Ahmed, Commercial Manager, Mina Rashid & Mina Hamriyah, DP World, who highlighted the growth plans for Mina Rashid cruise port which includes the allocation of additional berths to handle up to 7 mega ships (up from the current 6) and the development of a new terminal to meet market demand by 2020.
The first day’s Summit Session ‘managing growth, planning for the future’ saw senior government officials and tourism stakeholders then discuss their own growth plans for their destinations.
Delegates heard that Abu Dhabi welcomed a record 315,000 cruise visitors in 2017 – nearly 40,000 more than the previous year. Saeed Al Dhaheri, Cruise Sector and City Tour Development Manager, Department of Culture & Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi, said: “A recent survey commissioned for cruise passengers showed an overall satisfaction score of 96% – an overall 32% increase since 2015 – with consistently high scores across different aspects of their experience during their trip to the capital.”
Oman’s Mohammed Zahran Al Mahruqi, Program Director, ASYAD spoke of the infrastructural port growth plans, while Bahrain’s Yousef AlKhan, Director of Marketing & Tourism Promotion, Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) told delegates of the 45% increase in cruise passengers in the 2016-2017 season to 76,185.
Dubai’s Hamad Mohammed Bin Shaik Mejren, Senior Vice President, Stakeholders Department, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) reiterated the city’s aim to reach the 1m cruise passenger ambition.
For the first time, a delegation from India were amongst delegates and also represented on stage by Dr Suman Billa, Joint Secretary (Tourism), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and Shri Yashodhan A Wanage, Deputy Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust. Both gave a rallying cry of the ‘dawn of cruise tourism in India’ and asked stakeholders to work together to help the growth of cruise tourism to the main ports of Mumbai; Goa; Mangalore; Chennai and Cochin – all of which have been identified by the Government of India for cruise development – and also the potential of interporting with Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
Shaji Thomas, Director Destination Tourism Development, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority told delegates that RAK Port is upgrading its existing passenger terminal to accommodate boutique cruise vessels – which currently account for 11% of cruising capacity in the region. He also spoke of energetic growth plans for the UAE emirate; a new cruise terminal opening in February 2018 and announced that the world’s longest and highest zip line – surpassing the previous record holder in Puerto Rico – due to open soon.
Also taking part on the opening morning were cruise line executives, Tine Oelmann, Director, Port Operations, Shore Excursions & Ground Operations, TUI Cruises GmbH and Steven Young, Director, Port Services & Government Affairs, P&O Cruises & Cunard, Carnival UK.
Both long time supporters of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum and how it has become an essential regional platform for discussion and debate, Steven took the opportunity to announce “that P&O Cruises inaugural fly-cruise will start for 2019” and was the result of discussions over several years with regional stakeholders at this event.
17 cruise line executives from 14 of the world’s leading cruise lines are attending the annual Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum taking place at Lapita™; located within Dubai Parks and Resorts, Dubai, UAE from 12-13 December 2017.
Cruise lines represented include: AIDA Cruises; Carnival UK; Crystal Cruises; Cunard; Cruise & Maritime Voyages; Marella Cruises, TUI Group; MSC Cruises; P&O Cruises; Pullmantur Cruceros; Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd; TUI Cruises GmbH; Star Clippers; Windstar Cruises; Virgin Voyages.
“Cruise tourism within the Arabian Gulf has experienced explosive growth over the past five years,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman, Seatrade UBM EMEA. “As deployment continues to boom, destinations across the region have already made major investments in cruise terminal facilities to accommodate an expanding fleet of ships, which are increasing in capacity from season to season.”
The conference programme on Day Two will put a spotlight on a number of key discussion points, including extending seasonality; opportunities for niche cruising; port and destination development; the link with India; the Suez Canal and Red Sea; shore excursion offerings; supporting the needs of the crew and exploiting the potential for inbound Chinese tourism.
Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum has become a fixture on the regional cruise event calendar and been held for the past consecutive years in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Qatar and previously in Bahrain. The event’s return to Dubai reflects the regional significance for the future of cruising in the Arabian Gulf.