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Sat 15 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Bahrain hots up the pace in race for tourist dollars

Aqua Park, hotels, restaurants and resort facilities planned for Manama and Bahraini island

Bahrain has joined the race started by Dubai for tourism projects, but with a difference, according to those who are part of the new focus.

“Bahrain’s projects will be different from those of Dubai. While Dubai is developing projects that are modern, Bahrain will stress on its culture and that of this area. For example, last year we completed the Al Ghazal Desert Camp, where the focus was on the life in the desert and the strength of the desert and the local cuisine,” Al Kobaisi managing director of Manama-based major Al Kobaisi Group, told Construction Week.

The Al Kobaisi Group itself has proposed to develop some 350 000 m2 of prime waterfront property in the heart of Manama city in Bahrain, as a water-based resort that is estimated to cost more than US $25 million.

The promoter has also applied to lease one of Bahrain’s 33 islands to set up a major get-away resort, which would feature chalets built on water with stilts.

Al Kobaisi pointed out that Bahrain government is putting more focus on developing the kingdom as a tourist destination and has decided to create a committee that would promote an overall plan to develop projects and facilities.Consequently, several more tourism related projects could be in the pipeline, which would result in a raft of tenders boosting construction activity in the kingdom.

Already, major multibillion dollar developments such as the Al Areen project and Durrat Al Bahrain, Al Marsa Floating City, Bahrain Formula 1 circuit, Bahrain Financial Harbour, Amwaj and the proposed $1.5 billion Al Jazair Beach development, are in the works.

“We are investing in tourism projects to promote Bahrain in the area and elsewhere,” Al Kobaisi says.

Referring to own group projects, he said: “We have a lot of projects and some of these have been approved by the government.

“Just before I came to Dubai, I had met with municipal officials about the Aqua Park that we propose to develop in Manama. We have submitted the final designs and specifications for the authorities to do the final studies. The initial designs have been approved and we hope to sign the deal for the Aqua Park by the end of this month,” Al Kobaisi said.

He said the specialist firm of Water Park Canada has designed the Aqua Park, which will have all the features associated with a water-fun facility plus a hotel and resort, restaurants and malls.

“Once the design is approved and the contract is signed by the end of May, we hope to start construction in around October this year. Works will take about 18 months to complete,” Al Kobaisi said.

He said the group is a construction major and will carry out the works itself, appointing subcontractors when and if needed.

The Aqua Park development will be on an existing park in Manama and land will be leased from the government for 50 years.

Al Kobaisi said the group has also made a request for a 50-year lease on one of Bahrain 33 islands to develop a Mauritius-style resort.

“The request has been accepted by the government. We shall build a hotel and chalets on stilts. Access to the island will be by cable cars. The project will cost us about $10-15 million,” Al Kobaisi said.

He revealed that the island would be enlarged through reclamation works. Sweet water can be got on the island from underground. The island resort will be developed along the same lines as the Aqua Park.

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