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Mon 18 Jan 2010 04:15 PM

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Gulf cruise tourism to see growth but limited volumes

Royal Caribbean Int'l official says region has potential but unlikely to become big player.

Gulf cruise tourism to see growth but limited volumes
ALL ABOARD: The Brilliance of the Seas liner.

The Gulf’s cruise tourism will continue to grow but will never produce significant volumes of passengers, an industry expert told Arabian Business on Monday.

“It’s an important developmental market in that we see it growing significantly as a destination and also as a source market [but] I don’t think we’ll ever see big volume coming out of the GCC because there are not a lot of people here,” Michael Bayley, senior vice president, international, at Royal Caribbean International said.

Cruise tourism figures have continued to grow despite the economic downturn. Around 13 million passengers took a cruise last year, 4 percent more than the previous year, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Royal Caribbean International, which operates 21 cruise ships, launched its maiden Gulf voyage into Dubai on Monday.

The firm’s Brilliance of the Seas, which has a capacity of up to 2,500 passengers, will offer a seven night cruise stopping in Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi, and Bahrain, before returning to Dubai.

“We are quite hopeful that we will get a number of people from the Gulf,” said Bayley. “Typically they [Gulf residents] book higher end suites…and in larger groups, around 15-16 suites and a large group will come.”

Royal Caribbean International has seen a 6-7 percent increase in passenger volumes but has dropped its rates by around 12 percent, Bayley added.

With a new cruise terminal set to open in February, Dubai hopes to increase its cruise tourism to 575,000 by 2015, according to the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).

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