Experts optimistic of tourism revival

BAHRAIN’S travel and tourism sector is poised to slowly pick up by the fourth quarter of the year, according to industry leaders.

According to their conservative estimates, the hospitality sector should bounce back by September, although a full recovery was not expected until next year.

The partial closure in businesses, flight and visa restrictions and, most importantly, closure of the King Fahad Causeway since March 8, has placed travel and tourism amongst the main sectors devastated by the pandemic.

“I think it will start picking up slowly by September as we are already seeing countries like Greece and others opening up for tourism,” said Hospitality and Tourism committee chairman at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jehad Amin.

“Another example is the resumption of Emirates flights between Dubai and Bahrain. That is a positive sign.”

He understands hotel occupancy has been desperately low, with four-star properties currently around 15 per cent and 20pc in the case of five-star properties.

Some hotels had attracted guests who had booked in for quarantine stays and others were able to woo customers wanting a safe sea view break but the ‘majority have been forced to lay off staff members and continue to manage their fixed costs’.



A breakdown of the different sectors covered in the BCCI survey that expect to cease their operations or declare bankruptcy due to Covid-19


Mr Amin said they were now waiting for the green light to reopen restaurants for dine-ins while adhering to strict protocols, and other entertainment venues such as cinemas were also waiting in the wings to open their doors.

Domestic tourism activities are set to resume in neighbouring Saudi Arabia today after more than three months, and the UAE plans to soon fully reopen its borders.

The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) has just launched a new campaign #WeWillMeet, in a bid to increase the number of tourists, with a special focus on Saudi Arabia post Covid-19, as reported in the GDN. Reopening the causeway will be the first step to success.

Kanoo Travel president Nabeel Kanoo is also remaining optimistic, saying he feels the hospitality sector may pick up by September too.

“Based on the information we are daily receiving from our offices in the Middle East and the UK, travel business is expected to pick up by September with students travelling back and the holiday market later showing some movement.” stated Mr Kanoo.

“We have to take into consideration the ticket pricing too, depending on what the airlines decide with regard to introducing new health and safety measures.”

Mr Kanoo said with such rapid developments happening globally around the pandemic, forecasts could change at any point.

Skal Bahrain president Mohammed Buzizi said the most vital thing that policymakers needed to address was the 14-day quarantine period for visitors. “We need to address this or else we will be back to square one,” he warned.

“The hospitality sector is volatile because it’s related to people and involves providing them with services and now businesses need to adapt to a new way of life and behaviour.”

Mr Buzizi said he expects the sector will only pick up by next year.

He believes that even if activities resume in the near future a ‘phobia’ will remain among visitors that will directly affect the sector for the remainder of this year. A large investment in disinfectant tools to ensure the safety of staff and guests will be required to increase confidence.

The GDN reported last week that government officials, during a virtual meeting with legislators, said that travel through Bahrain International Airport has dropped by 98pc since the outbreak.

They also revealed that visitors to shopping malls dropped by 91pc, while hotel occupancy dropped by 72pc and fuel sales reduced by 32pc.

Another key survey conducted by the BCCI that covered 1,180 participants found 71pc of business owners from the tourism and hospitality sector expect to close their companies within the next six months, while 52pc from the sector expected to lay off more than 20pc of their staff during the upcoming period.


A BCCI survey for the Hospitality and Tourism sector shows that 56pc owners expect a decrease in revenue, while 71pc expect closure in six months


Hoteliers last month sent a letter addressed to the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani appealing for nine months exemption of Value Added Tax starting from January and the government levy during the same period.

In addition, they called for six months’ exemption of utility bills, municipal fees, expat and Social Insurance Organisation fees, while pushing for benefits of expatriate staff to be subsidised.

Experts say the estimated loss for Bahrain’s hospitality sector at the end of the year could reach BD500m – that includes BD400m for airlines and BD100m for hotels, travel agents, event management and allied sectors.





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