Bahrain leads MEA region in tourism capital investment

Bahrain topped the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region bagging $492 million-worth of tourism capital investment in 2020, reveals new analysis by a Financial Times Group publication.

Investments from the likes of UAE-based global property developer Emaar Properties and real estate developer Eagle Hills enabled the kingdom to rank first in terms of capital investment last year, as per the fDi Intelligence’s Tourism Investment report 2021.

Bahrain also placed first in terms of job creation in the tourism cluster in 2020, with a 40 per cent market share across the region, and the kingdom was second to the UAE among the region’s top destinations for tourism FDI by number of projects.

The report found that major foreign investments helped the country’s tourism sector to remain buoyant and created jobs during the worst ever period for the global tourism industry.

Capital investment into MEA last year decreased 82pc from 2019, dropping to $1.6 billion.

The number of tourism jobs created in the region also experienced a similar decline, decreasing from approximately 17,400 in 2019 to 2,800 in 2020.

Prior to Covid, Bahrain was attracting around a million visitors a month on average and the tourism sector contributed around 7pc to GDP.

As the first economy in the GCC to diversify away from oil, the kingdom has positioned its tourism offering to cater for a broader set of visitors through new attractions, hotels, F&B and retail.

During the pandemic, the country continued developing its strategy to transform its tourism sector, allocating more than $10bn to tourism infrastructure projects, including the $1.1bn modernisation of its international airport.

More recently, Edamah, the real estate arm of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, also announced several new upscale property projects in the country.

Accor, a hospitality group with over 400 hotels, Minor Hotels, which has a portfolio of 527 hotels and resorts, and Hilton DoubleTree unveiled plans to launch new properties in the kingdom.

Anticipating a significant rebound in tourism numbers, the kingdom is growing its portfolio of five-star hotels and is set to have around 9,300 rooms by the end of 2022.

Quoting Colliers International, the GDN reported last month that an additional 17 projects are in active development in Bahrain.

The country is also anticipating a return in demand and growth for beachfront affordable brands.

Earlier this month, Stella Stays, a Dubai-based hospitality brand that operates a model to rival Airbnb, launched operations in Bahrain with an eye on the country’s $12bn pipeline of real estate projects.

Mahmood Al Aradi, chief investment officer at the Economic Development Board (EDB), said: “Despite the obvious challenges, we have continued to progress with our ambitious tourism infrastructure and real estate plans, which have attracted some of the world’s most renowned hotel brands and the Gulf’s largest property development groups, including Emaar.

“As well as being one of the region’s top holiday destinations, Bahrain is widely regarded as the best place to live and work in the GCC. Locals and expats are well-integrated both socially and professionally, which is unusual in the region. As part of the kingdom’s infrastructure transformation initiative, we have a significant pipeline of projects in various sectors including industrial, hospitality, real estate and retail.

“And as the pandemic eases and restrictions lift, there will be a greater opportunity for regional connectivity and co-operation. We hope to welcome even more foreign hospitality groups looking to capitalise on Bahrain’s position as an outwardly-facing, expanding tourism hotspot.”




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