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Khalifa Port Khalifa Port

ABU DHABI: Bon Voyage (Part 1)

WITH ITS CRUISE SECTOR HAVING BEEN IDENTIFIED AS AN EMERGING NICHE, ABU DHABI IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE ARABIAN GULF’S AMBITIONS TO BECOME A LEADING WINTER SUN CRUISE HUB.

THE SECTOR IS SHOWING ITSELF TO BE RESILIENT AND CAPABLE OF BOOSTING THE EMIRATE’S STATUS AS AN INTERNATIONAL DESTINATION.

According to Amadeus’ Shaping the future of travel in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) report, tourism and travel have been gradually emerging as key sectors for the economic vitality of the entire region with travel providers, industry bodies and governments reimaging a travel experience driven by a new, always-connected generation.

Apart from overall tourism that is directed by the aviation industry, cruises are increasingly becoming the new facet of the GCC tourism, offering a foreseeable potential for sea travel, especially intra-regional as well as opportunities for investing in this sector’s infrastructure and regulations.

Noticing the popularity of the new trend for cruise tourism amongst the Middle Eastern segment, Lakshmi Durai, CEO, Travel Matrix, the Middle East representative for Celebrity Cruises, stated, “The demand for cruises from the Middle East has been growing continuously over the last decade and there are more guests now with reasonable awareness to choose their preferred cruises.

Middle Eastern cruisers are keen on good quality and hassle-free vacations.”

With its geographical advantages, extensive coastline, winter sun, beautiful islands and state-of the-art infrastructure, Abu Dhabi serves as an ideal hub for cruises.

The emirate is expecting increased arrivals and greater tourist footfall onshore thanks to the decision by international cruise companies such as MSC Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and AIDA Cruises to home port their vessels throughout the season, before and after voyages, making the emirate the entry point for a greater number of guests who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience what Abu Dhabi’s cruise sector offers.

Speaking about the cruisers demographics Abdulkareem Al Masabi, executive vice president, Ports Unit, Abu Dhabi Ports, revealed that Germany and the UK are the main feeder markets, probably due to the region’s ideal weather, with Italy, Russia, the Netherlands and the US following.

According to Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the 2016-2017 cruise season was record-breaking as demand, occupancy and forward bookings from cruises, originating from Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal reached unprecedented heights while this rise in passenger figures is expected to continue, with projections of 450,000 by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025.

The sector’s successful path has also been confirmed by Al Masabi who disclosed that the emirate welcomed during 2016-2017, 345,662 cruise visitors.

Further elaborating, Al Masabi highlighted that this was the first year during which the cruise season has been extended to June, something which is quite surprising as until recently the cruise season concluded in April or May.