Abu Dhabi’s ambition to become an international cruise hub has received a significant boost, following the signing, between Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and MSC Cruises of a landmark co-operation agreement that will see one of the world’s fastest growing cruise operator deploy one of its top vessels to the UAE capital on a homeport basis from October 2011.
Abu Dhabi’s anticipated elevation from port-of-call to homeport status strengthens the UAE capital’s nascent cruise tourism credentials and serves as a core enabler in ADTA’s strategy to attract 2.3 million hotel guests to the Emirates by the end of 2012.
Under the terms of the agreement, Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed Port will serve as the primary embarkation and disembarkation point for the Italian operator’s maiden regional itinerary – scheduled for the 2011-2012 season - using its luxury MSC Lirica liner.
With its ultra-modern fleet, MSC Cruises’ entry into the Arabian Gulf will see MSC Lirica - a 59,000-tons vessel with a capacity of 2,199 guests in 784 cabins - provide 19 eight-day/seven-night cruises covering five destinations between November 2011 and March 2012.
“MSC Cruises’ commitment to Abu Dhabi as a homeport will deliver both tactical and strategic outcomes for the Emirates,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA.
“Beyond the substantial, broad-based benefits to our domestic tourism sector through incremental gains in hotel guests, longer length of stay and greater spending, this partnership provides Abu Dhabi a firm footing on the international cruise tourism map and reinforces the strategic case for a world-class, purpose-built cruise terminal in the emirate.”
“MSC Cruises is proud to become the first cruise company to choose Abu Dhabi as a homeport.” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Chief Executive Officer, MSC Cruises. “With our state-of-the-art vessel MSC Lirica operating 95 calls and 19 rotations in the region, our presence will have a significant impact on the tourism industry of Abu Dhabi”.
To foster continued growth in the cruise sector, Al Muhairi revealed that ADTA will - by the end of the year - commission a technical
and operational feasibility study in co-operation with relevant domestic and international stakeholders towards the development of a dedicated cruise terminal capable of handling mega and boutique cruises alike.
ADTA had earlier completed a cruise tourism study in February, with a key output being that full-fledged homeport status for Abu Dhabi has the potential to deliver upwards of 50,000 new visitors annually. MSC Lirica’s 19 voyages next season translates to a potential of 39,000 cruise arrivals alone.
“We see Abu Dhabi as an exciting cruise destination which has already proved immensely popular with international tourists” said Vago. “MSC Cruises will be an important catalyst in driving growth in cruise tourism in the region. After having discovered the UAE and their exciting attractions from our luxury ship, visitors will come back again, as they always do, further boosting the development and promotion of local economy.”
The ADTA-MSC Cruises co-operation is a major coup of the authority’s Horizons Abu Dhabi programme, an incentive-based trade engagement initiative designed to attract innovative promotional concepts to stimulate consumer demand across the emirate’s rapidly-expanding tourism offerings.
The pact will see the partners collaborate in a series of cross-marketing activities, leveraging their shared presence at international travel, tourism and cruise-specific shows. Taking in 14 different trade shows in 10 European and Asian countries, ADTA and MSC Cruises will share exhibition space for promotional purposes.
ADTA and MSC Cruises will also jointly mount a year-long promotional and publicity campaign in more than ten target markets to promote the MSC Lirica’s maiden season in the Gulf.
“This co-operative partnership is premised on ADTA and MSC Cruises utilising our combined influence, channels and brands to good effect in target markets of mutual interest,” said Al Muhairi.
“I am sure this will ensure a winning combination of a unique cruise product and a world-class destination”, added Vago.
Closer to home, ADTA and Abu Dhabi Ports Company, which operate Zayed, have pledged to oversee MSC Lirica’s berthing duties next season, as well as ensure all aspects of passenger handling meet international standards. ADTA is planning to boost its existing cruise terminal visitor centre
adding facilities, such as a currency exchange facility and special stakeholder booths, to its current offering of heritage demonstrations.
The luxurious MSC Lirica which will mark the official entry of MSC Cruises in the Emirates with 19 rotations in 2011-2012, features a sophisticated and elegant decor, superb attention to details in all areas, the finest Italian and international cuisine and a dazzling array of entertainment and activities.
Surrounding MSC Lirica’s 19 regional forays will be repositioning cruises from-and-to Genoa, Italy, on October 14th 2011 and on March 9th 2012.