Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, organiser of the Middle East Cruise Convention
With the Middle East’s cruise tourism growth clearly surpassing the global average, Dubai has been selected as the venue for the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Convention. A dedicated event focusing on the Middle East’s rapidly expanding cruise sector, the conference and exhibition event will be held in Dubai from 18 – 20 October 2011.
The Middle East has recorded impressive double-digit growth in cruise tourism in recent years, exceeding the global average of 5% over the past three years. In Dubai alone, the number of cruise ships visiting has more than quadrupled over the last five years.
In 2011, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) expects some 103 ships carrying more than 390,000 passengers to dock in Dubai, up from 55 ships in 2007 and just 13 ships in 2005.
“The growth in cruise tourism helped the region’s tourism sector through the more difficult period of the economic downturn, as the increasing number of cruise travelers provided a much-needed lift to the hospitality sector,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, organiser of the Middle East Cruise Convention.
During the convention, representatives from the world’s cruise lines will meet with regional stakeholders for the two-day event featuring an exhibition, conference, workshops and training seminars. Delegates and visitors from regional destinations will have a rare opportunity to reach cruise line decision-makers and hear the latest in industry trends from experts and business leaders.
Workshop sessions held on the convention’s second afternoon will foster interaction between the region’s ports and cruise line itinerary planners, who will gain new insight into the unique offerings available. Port operators from Dubai, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi have already committed, with others expected to sign on in the coming months.
Seatrade Middle East Cruise Convention will also have a presence at Arabian Travel Market 2011, held at the Dubai World Trade Centre from 2-5 May 2011. Part of ATM’s Cruise Pavilion, it will have an exhibitor stand co-located with Dubai’s DTCM, where representatives from the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Convention can provide potential exhibitors and delegates with additional information on registration and involvement.
"Despite the slowdown in the global tourism industry, cruise tourism in the Gulf has been growing steadily, thanks to the efforts of the DTCM and the cruise operators. This demonstrates the resilience of Dubai's economy and the trust put in it by the global cruise operators,” said Hamad M. Bin Mejren, director business tourism, DTCM.
The United Arab Emirates’ cruise sector is set for further growth from the end of 2011, with MSC Cruises planning to base its 59,000 ton MSC Lirica vessel in Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed Port from October this year.
Other international cruise brands Costa Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and AIDA Cruises continue to operate and expand in the region. In addition, TUI Cruises’ Mein Schiff 2 makes its Middle East debut in winter 2012/13, with weekly round-trip cruises from Dubai to Oman, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
“Given the region’s rich maritime history, high number of luxury hotels and diverse array of other tourist drawcards, the Middle East Cruise Convention’s Dubai location is ideal,” added Hayman.
Abu Dhabi also has ambitions of becoming a leading regional cruise destination, with a study from the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority indicating it has the potential to deliver more than 50,000 new visitors annually. The emirate’s strategic alliance with MSC Cruises, which is a leader in the Mediterranean, South African and Brazilian markets, will add up to 39,000 annual cruise arrivals.
According to figures from Oman's tourism ministry and Port Sultan Qaboos, the number of cruise ship visits to Muscat for the 2010-11 season jumped from 78 to 94, with the number of passenger arrivals increasing by 72% to 231,100 compared to 2009. The ministry anticipates passenger arrivals to Muscat will exceed 300,000 by 2015.
Topics to be covered during the Middle East Cruise Convention conference programme include the factors behind the Gulf’s success as an expanding cruise destination and cruise line deployment strategies for the future.
"Some countries of the region have largely shied away from cruise experience, which something that needs change. If we have want this particular industry to continue to grow, we must ensure that residents and nationals of the UAE and other countries of the GCC take interest in short cruise trips in the region in attracting more operators to position their vessels here,” added Bin Mejren.
The broader economic impact of cruise tourism in the region, ways to enhance this and the next steps in marketing the region’s cruise credentials will also be covered during the event.
Travel agents will benefit from a free training day incorporated into the Middle East Cruise Convention, comprising a combination of bespoke training and presentations from cruise line representatives. This will provide a rare level of specialised insight into the lucrative cruise product along with a wider knowledge of tourism in the region.
Among visitors likely to benefit from the event’s diverse programme are ports operators and terminal suppliers, ship agents, destination management companies, hotels, tour operators and many others.
The Middle East Cruise Convention will also provide specialised information and networking opportunities for tourism authorities and government officials in immigration and security-related areas.