News Column

Bahrain to offer tourists 'experiences'

August 5, 2014

Manama



A visit to Bahrain will soon become a unique and memorable experience for tourists. A major new strategy aims to promote "experience-led" options for visitors that will offer the country's best attractions and cultural heritage, a tourism official told the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.

They will be able to opt to experience an exploration of pearling that Bahrain is so famous for, get a feel of the Arabian nature, go on the culture trail, get the thrills of the kingdom's Formula One experience or enjoy traditions and culture. They will also have a chance to visit Bahrain during festival time, it stated.

A high-powered committee, under the direction of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier, is to be set up to oversee the strategy's implementation.

The ministerial committee, which was first proposed following a meeting between the Crown Prince and the Culture Ministry last December, is part of a new tourism strategy designed to boost visitor numbers over the next four years.

It aims to increase tourism's contribution to the economy through a variety of methods such as developing new products and experiences that make Bahrain's offering to tourism more attractive, and rebranding the country as a "boutique destination" replete with cultural heritage, GDN reported.

Despite tourisms' relatively low contribution to the Bahrain's gross domestic product estimated around 2 per cent of the total in recent years the sector has been identified as a "major non-oil economic growth driver", according to Culture Ministry tourism affairs adviser Dr Heba Abdulaziz.

"Challenges faced by the industry, as identified by hoteliers and tour operators, include an insufficient provision of tour opportunities for visitors and a lack of differentiation between Bahrain's tourism offering and that of other countries in the GCC," she said.

Dr Abdulaziz also mentioned that there will also be a dedicated fund for project development, marketing and building capacity - primarily funded by a five per cent tourism tax.

The Bahrain Tourism Strategy 2015-2018, drawn up by the Culture Ministry and unveiled recently, also plans to encourage more youngsters into the sector as well.

Encouraging more Bahraini's to work in tourism is a key part of the Culture Ministry's strategy over the next four years, she said.

The number of citizens working in the sector, known as the 'Bahrainisation rate' has fallen dramatically in the past decade from a high of 33 per cent or more to last years' figure of just 18 per cent, GDN stated.

"Raising the competence and productivity of tourism employees, strengthening tourism education and training provision, introducing a tour guide training and license scheme, and launching a domestic tourism awareness campaign are also part of this strategy, said Dr Abdulaziz.

"There is a high dependency on one market segment in particular bachelors from Saudi and a lack of training opportunities for public officials involved in managing the tourism sector and limited public-private sector co-ordination and co-operation only add to the challenges," she added.

The GDN reported in April that a five-year strategy was being launched in a bid to encourage more Bahraini's to work for the hospitality sector.

Plans have been approved by the Cabinet for a specialised training institute, which would seek to change the misconceptions among citizens that the industry is "not compatible with social values," it said. TradeArabia News Service



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Source: TradeArabia


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