TOURISTS spent more than BD630 million in Bahrain during the first six months of the year, according to figures released yesterday.
Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) data showed there were 5.6m tourist arrivals between January 1 and June 30, of which 4,925,698 came via King Fahad Causeway.
Details were revealed during a Press conference at the Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre.
“We are glad to announce the tourism statistics that cover the first half of 2017 which shows that a total of 6.1m people arrived in the country, out of which 5.6m were tourists,” said BTEA chief executive Shaikh Khalid bin Humood Al Khalifa.
“This is a 14 per cent increase compared to the first half of 2016 because of our tourism strategy (for 2015-2018), which is on track.”
Shaikh Khalid said the average visitor expenditure per day or night was BD77.
“The total inbound tourism expenditure was BD631.4m during the first six months of the year,” he added.
“This is total spending by tourists and not the total contribution that is added to the gross domestic product (GDP) reflecting the tourism sector.”
While most came by road from Saudi Arabia, 616,230 arrived through Bahrain International Airport and 43,191 were cruise tourists.
However, 63pc stayed for less than 24 hours – with 68pc of arrivals via King Fahad Causeway staying less than a day in Bahrain and spending BD75 on average.
That compares with 21pc of those arriving through the airport staying less than a day and spending BD68 on average.
Tourists who stayed longer spent more, with visitors using the causeway spending BD80 per day on average and those using the airport spending BD78 per day on average.
“Compared with first half of 2016 there has been a 13pc growth in number of tourists at the causeway, 23pc at Bahrain International Airport and 44pc (increase in) cruise tourists,” said Shaikh Khalid.
“Our teams in the past have actively pushed for cruise tourism, which is a tough job as it takes about two years to plan before Bahrain is selected as a destination by cruise operators.”
More than half of the tourists, 57pc, came to Bahrain for holidays or leisure, 9pc were visiting friends and relatives, 7pc were here for business, 22pc for shopping, 2pc for health services and 3pc for other reasons.
“The maximum number of tourists arrived in April, which saw 1,086,748 arrivals,” said Shaikh Khalid.
“This was when the F1 race was held in Bahrain, followed by March when 1,015,234 visitors were registered.”
The data, compiled in co-operation with the Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), showed the average length of stay for tourists was 2.3 nights.
Most, 72pc, stayed in hotels, while 11pc stayed with friends or relatives, 14pc in furnished apartments, 2pc in rented apartments and 1pc in their own apartments.
Five-star hotels enjoyed higher occupancy rates and revenues compared with four-star properties, with 48pc and 40pc occupancy rates respectively.
Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) in five-star properties during the first six months of the year was BD38, compared with BD16 in four-star hotels.
Meanwhile, 72pc of visitors arriving across the causeway stayed in hotels, compared with 17pc of those arriving at Bahrain International Airport.
“We are optimistic about the growth witnessed in the first half of this year, which is expected to continue throughout 2017 because of an increase in tourists from the causeway, special airline packages by Gulf Air and a line-up of events,” added Shaikh Khalid.
Bahrain last year unveiled a new tourism identity, ‘Ours. Yours. Bahrain’, as part of an initiative to reinvigorate the tourism industry.
The global campaign aims to increase annual revenues from tourism to $1 billion by 2020, effectively doubling the sector’s contribution to Bahrain’s GDP from 3.6pc to 6.6pc.
Bahrain is expected to launch 15 new hotels and beach-front resorts with a combined investment of $10bn over the next five years.
There are currently 18 five-star facilities in Bahrain and 48 four-star hotels.
Meanwhile, new offices opened in six countries to promote Bahrain as a tourist destination are expected to start showing results this year.
The offices have been opened in Saudi Arabia, Russia, the UK, France, Germany, China and India.
“We are looking forward to welcoming about 2,000 tourists who will be coming from countries where BTEA has tourism offices (by November),” said Shaikh Khalid.