Confidence ‘picking up in tourism sector’

BAHRAIN’S tourism sector’s recovery has begun with the gradual resumption of activities and opening of new projects, said a top minister.

Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani added that confidence in the industry was picking up gradually since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year.

He added that the ministry remained committed to getting the distressed sector back on track this year by launching new projects and hosting events.


“The recovery of the tourism industry in Bahrain has started and we aim to expand the sector beyond the region,” Mr Alzayani told the GDN yesterday.

“This sector was the most hard-hit due to the pandemic, not just here in Bahrain, but globally.

“However, it was also one of the areas which received the most financial support from the government, with a full-year waiver of tourism fees (amounting to nearly BD15 million) along with other packages such as paying salaries of Bahraini staff and covering the utility bills.”

Mr Alzayani, who is also Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) chairman, was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the Swiss-Belhotel International’s first five-star hotel in the region – the Grand Swiss-Belhotel Waterfront Seef.

Present were Swiss-Belhotel International chairman Gavin M Faull, ministry, BTEA and hotel officials.

This was the group’s second hotel opening in Bahrain in as many days; on Wednesday Mr Alzayani had inaugurated the four-star Swiss Belsuites Admiral Hotel in Juffair, close to the US Navy base.

“The tourism sector, and hotels in particular, is receiving close attention by the government and is at the forefront of priorities within government programmes and directions, because it is considered one of the most important economic sectors accelerating growth and prosperity.

“The new hotel is a new and positive indicator of the tourism movement in the country, creating a spirit of competitiveness which will only enhance the quality of hotel services, boost investment opportunities in the sector and attract tourists.”

Mr Alzayani added that the BTEA is working towards turning Bahrain into a distinctive regional and international tourist destination, hoping that the tourism sector will increase its contribution to the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product).

He also said the under-construction international exhibition and convention centre in Sakhir will draw visitors from across the globe and further boost the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector.

The BD83.6m mega convention centre will be the largest in the Middle East and is expected to open next year.

“We are committed to the new exhibition and convention centre which should be ready this time next year and will give a mega boost to the tourism sector.

“In addition, we are embarking on a new development phase of coastlines and islands, as we plan to inaugurate Qalali (beach) in the coming weeks.

“We will keep moving now from one project to another and reactivate tourism activities while adhering to necessary health and safety protocols.

“The reopening of King Fahad Causeway (closed since March last year) has definitely helped as we have seen good numbers that are expected to further grow.”

The strategic bridge that connects Bahrain with Saudi opened on Monday for visitors who are vaccinated or those recovered from the coronavirus.

When asked about the spike in Covid-19 cases over the past week with the highest single day total, 2,364, recorded on Wednesday, Mr Alzayani said it was important to look forward.


“Whatever we do now, will have a true impact and value years down the line,” he stressed.

In January, the minister had told Parliament that the tourism industry had suffered an estimated BD1 billion blow due to Covid-19 and its repercussions.

According to the 2020 Q4 data in the Bahrain Economic Quarterly Report, hotels and restaurants sector was still suffering from the pandemic impact, witnessing a 13.6 per cent decline during the period.

However, four-star hotels registered a 23pc occupancy rate, while five-star hotels recorded 29pc at the end of Q4 2020, amounting to quarterly growths of 53.3pc and 20.8pc, respectively.




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