As the region’s 2015/2016 cruise season has come to a close, Abu Dhabi Ports, the master developer, operator and manager of ports and the Khalifa Industrial Zone in the Emirate, has released its best ever Cruise Terminal performance figures. With an increase of 16% in passengers and 20% increase in vessel calls, the state-of-the-art Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal is playing a prominent role in expanding the emirate’s tourism industry and achieving its economic diversification goals.
Targeted investment turns Abu Dhabi into a regional cruise hub
The cruise season of 2015/2016 witnessed a growth in the number of passengers received as Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal welcomed 231,660 tourists, compared to the 35,366 passengers arrived at Zayed Port 10 years ago, during the cruise season of 2006/2007.
The sharp increase in visitors arriving by sea comes on the heels of last year’s launch of the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, officially inaugurated on December 13, 2015 by H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. The new terminal not only boasts state-of-the-art technology, but also provides visitors with a taste of the emirate’s heritage by incorporating national icons, such as the UAE’s traditional dhow sailing vessels and its national tree, into its architectural design.
“This impressive double-digit growth in the face of economic headwinds is a remarkable achievement and further strengthens Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal’s role in boosting the country’s tourism industry. We are working closely with our strategic partners to reinforce Abu Dhabi’s position as a major global destination and attract international cruise liners to not only call at Abu Dhabi as part of their itinerary but also to choose the emirate as their starting point for regional cruises by making it their homeport,” said Captain Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, CEO of Abu Dhabi Ports.
113 cruise ships called at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal during the 2015/2016 season, marking a 20 per cent growth over the 94 ships that docked at Zayed Port during the 2014/2015 season.
“Our ongoing efforts in increasing the level of awareness of the cutting-edge Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and the wider emirate are yielding rewarding results. Cruise operators have been promoting Abu Dhabi and the region within their itineraries with great success,” explained Noura Rashid Al Dhaheri, Cruise Terminal Manager at Abu Dhabi Ports.
Attractive destination for European ‘winter sun’ tourists
For tourists from Europe, Abu Dhabi is the ultimate ‘winter sun cruise destination.’ Tourists from Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom made up 80 per cent of cruise visitors to Abu Dhabi in the 2015/2016 season, while Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Austria were equally well represented.
Abu Dhabi continues to increase in popularity for its array of attractions and experiences in a relatively small area, including desert sand dunes, white sand beaches, world-class shopping, fine dining and leisure destinations and historic arts and cultural districts. All of these are within a short distance of Abu Dhabi’s Cruise Terminal and can be experienced at the beginning or end of a cruise, making a great addition to an integrated tourist itinerary.
MSC Cruises and AIDA Cruises were the first cruise line operators to choose Abu Dhabi and Zayed Port’s new permanent terminal as their homeport for the 2015/2016 season, a crucial competitive component of the cruise industry. Nearly 18 per cent of the total passenger footfall this season arrived on homeporting vessels, a significant increase on previous years and a healthy boost to Abu Dhabi’s tourism and cultural sectors overall.
“The inauguration of Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal has created an influential buzz with international cruise liners, with whom we proactively work to ensure that their operational requirements and suggestions are incorporated into our terminal facilities,” mentioned Al Dhaheri.
She added, “Cruise lines are always looking for new destinations and, with the support of our strategic partners, we are well positioned to offer a smooth and enjoyable experience for cruise passengers.”
Zayed Port’s new cruise terminal is a truly integrated landmark that has been purpose-built to include an exceptional passenger experience, hosting of modern facilities, tourist information services, retail facilities, and the provision of city tours, and smooth and timely customs processes as well as free Wi-Fi.
Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal is the first permanent cruise ship terminal in the region that provides integrated facilities and operations with international airport passenger check-in capabilities with dedicated Abu Dhabi Airport counters and Etihad Airways services.
Emirati in Architectural and Operational Design – blending the old and the new
Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal’s modern architectural elements and design incorporate symbols of the UAE’s heritage and long maritime history; a brief interlude that creates a unique destination for passengers. The building’s roof design of latticework mimics the UAE’s national tree, the Ghaf. Wooden beams inside the building take inspiration from the UAE’s traditional dhow sailing vessels. A fusion of traditional Arabic ornaments and modern architectural elements define the building’s distinctive style, combining the UAE’s rich history with ultra-modern facilities that are among the best in the world.
Managing the operations of this landmark is a skilled team of individuals with backgrounds in both tourism and maritime. In line with the Emiratisation efforts of Abu Dhabi Ports, 75 per cent of the total terminal staff are Emiratis. Al Dhaheri commented, “Who better to promote the emirate and the region than the nation’s own citizens.”
2016/2017 Season – Setting sights on new horizons at Sir Bani Yas Island
The upcoming cruise season is set to further enhance Abu Dhabi’s cruise tourism industry and offer more options to cruise passengers. Abu Dhabi Ports is currently developing the luxury, award winning Sir Bani Yas Island to be the Arabian Gulf’s first beach and eco-tourism stopover for cruise ships.
Sir Bani Yas is one of the largest natural islands in the UAE and an award winning nature and wildlife island reserve. The island already features three luxury hotel resorts as well as a wide range of activities, especially in water sports. Once the beachfront is fully developed, Sir Bani Yas will boast wooden boardwalks, barbeque facilities, hammocks and cabanas along the beach, dining facilities as well as water sports activities.
For the 2016/2017 cruise season, Sir Bani Yas alone is already set to receive 39 cruise ships with an expected 65,000 passengers – this foretells a promising season for the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and the Emirate’s tourism industry.
“At Abu Dhabi Ports, we are constantly exploring ways to expand our offerings and services and the global growth in the cruise and tourism sectors are at the heart of our growth strategy. Ensuring that Abu Dhabi remains a preferred port of call for international cruise lines reflects our commitment to playing our part in meeting our wise leadership’s vision of diversifying the economy and positioning the Emirate as a sought-after tourism destination. We look forward to continuing our growth in this area over the coming years,” concluded Al Shamisi.