Abu Dhabi’s hosting this week of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum will be a regional industry milestone if the public and private sector join together to seize the segment’s economic opportunities, delegates heard today.
Speaking to the Forum, which has run for two days at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Al Dhaheri, strategy and policy director,
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, said the sector holds out huge growth potential if all stakeholders engage in discussions to identify the opportunities and challenges.
“If we seize this opportunity we will look back on this day as a milestone in the development of cruising in Arabia,” said Al Dhaheri.
“Today we have the chance to openly discuss the growth opportunities which clearly exist for this region’s cruise industry.
“We also have the chance to be forthright in identifying the challenges which could hinder this growth, and then address them.”
Al Dhaheri said the entire region needs to come together to drive an ambition of becoming a credible and highly appealing cruise region.
“To do this we have to pool our resources – in terms of marketing – both to the cruise industry and the consumer.
“There are challenges – but they are not insurmountable. We do though have to become easier to do business with,” he said.
“In Abu Dhabi we are taking our cruise ambitions seriously.
“We are committed to building a permanent cruise terminal and to introduce a stop-over destination on Delma Island in our Western Region and we have other plans in the pipeline.”
Al Dhaheri said TCA Abu Dhabi has produced, in five languages, self-touring itineraries for cruise guests visiting Abu Dhabi.
“We are differentiating our shore excursion offerings from other destinations by specifically recommending tours and visits to our unique offerings including our big ticket attractions on Yas Island, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and our heritage attractions,” he said.
Al Dhaheri also disclosed that TCA Abu Dhabi has set up a dedicated industry development committee specifically for the cruise industry.
“This committee, which includes representatives of the port, Abu Dhabi Terminals, immigration, Etihad Airways and the Department of Transport will eventually be expanded to include private sector players,” he explained.
“The committee will meet monthly with the aims of working together to grow the cruise tourism industry, to identify sector challenges and opportunities, to build destination awareness among operators and get a greater share of their business, to create co-operative stakeholder support for each cruise line and to jointly market and communicate the sector’s business.”
And Al Dhaheri disclosed that Abu Dhabi is now working with Fujairah, Dubai and Muscat to develop the sector in a new Cruise Arabia Alliance approach.
“We are taking part together in road shows around the region to lift awareness of this industry among the travel trade, the media and the end consumer.
“We realise that we have to convince consumers here of the advantages of cruising,” he said.
“These are mere green shoots but they will grow if nurtured properly.”