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Sun 7 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Leisure sector to go on cruise control

Operators should interact with DMCs and travel agents to target 40,000 cruising holidaymakers.

Middle East attractions and leisure facilities are set to benefit from increased visitor numbers generated by the growing number of ships docking in Dubai.

More than 82 cruises are scheduled to visit Dubai in 2009; a figure that will be significantly increased by 2010 due to the entrance of new markets. This means that as many as 40,000 cruising holidaymakers will embark on the region's leisure industry, according to research and events body Seatrade.

Kanoo Travel country manager UAE and Oman Sunil D-Souza said that "tourist attractions in Dubai and surrounding areas are a big drawcard for the leisure market. In turn the growing cruise sector in the gulf region will boost tourist numbers".

D-Souza also said that the leisure industry can boost returns from the market by interacting more with destination management companies (DMCs) and travel agents to establish passenger land itineraries and shore excursions that incorporate the leisure facilities.

Furthermore, many of the vessels are luxury cruises, which attract high-end customers, pointed out D-Souza.

"While many people are currently apprehensive about spending, the top-end customers have no problem, they have made their travel plans and they are going," he said.

"This attitude is also shared to some degree by the middle market segment, though they do tend to be slightly more cautious," added D-Souza.

"Dubai is ideally placed to offer the perfect holiday to six-star cruise guests," said Silversea's senior vice president of sales and marketing for UK, Ireland and Middle East, Trudy Redfern.

Seatrade claims that Dubai has provided the right infrastructure to act as a magnet for cruise lines seeking new destinations due to its ground itineraries, including attractions, hotels and accessibility.

However, the company said that the rest of the region will also benefit, potentially ports such as Muscat, Musandam, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.

"The Middle East is an emerging market that is becoming more and more exposed to the cruise industry as more ships visit the region and awareness increases," explained international account director for luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises Bianca Lanao.

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