By Andy Sambidge
Gulf states reveal plans to take bigger share of lucrative cruise tourism market
Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Ras Al-Khaimah are all embarking on port expansion plans that would enable the region to grow its share of the lucrative cruise market.
The significant port expansion plans for the cruise industry were outlined at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, in Abu Dhabi.
Mubarak Al Muhairi, director-general of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) announced that designs for a new permanent cruise terminal at Mina Zayed in the UAE capital would be revealed in Q1 2014.
Mohamed Juma al Shamisi, acting CEO, Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), said in comments published by news agency WAM: "The new cruise terminal is a significant investment and offers a much improved customer experience. But this is only the beginning."
Once finished, the permanent port will have capacity for three to four cruise ships at one time, he added.
Issa Al Mohannadi, chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority, said expanding Qatar's cruise ambitions was part of a strategy to attract seven million visitors annually by 2030.
He said that commercial port activities would be relocated to a new site outside of the capital Doha in 2016.
Port development was also a feature of Oman's presentation by Salim Al Mamari, the director-general of Tourism Development at the Ministry of Tourism.
He confirmed that Sultan Qaboos Port would cease to cater for cargo vessels from August 2014, with redevelopment covering three new cruise berths, ferry and marina berths, hotels, souks, restaurants and other tourism facilities.
Expansion is also planned for Salalah with a separate cruise terminal, while Khasab port in Musandam in the north was being re-designed with additional facilities for cruise ships, he added.
In other developments around the region, Dubai is pushing ahead with a new terminal, according to Hamad bin Mejren, executive director of Business Tourism at Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Government of Dubai.
He said the new facility at Mina Rashid would be operational in the first quarter of 2014 and would be four times the size of the current terminal.
And Khalid Motik, director of Ras Al-Khaimah Tourism Investment and Development Authority, said the emirate was planning a cruise facility at Mina Saqr for launch by 2016/17.