A Tourism chief has called on Bahrain to step up its public relations war to combat foreign media reports, which he said were killing Bahrain's travel industry. It follows the temporary suspension of visits by a major cruise ship operator, which cancelled stops in Bahrain on February 8, last Wednesday and this coming Wednesday over security concerns.
Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) tourism committee chairman Nabeel Kanoo said more needed to be done to counter negative reports about Bahrain in the West. "The hotels and tourism sector have lost more than 40 percent in revenues over the last year," he said. "This is a significant percentage in a small country like Bahrain." Kanoo said it is not only the hotels that were suffering, but also related businesses. "The old suq, the gold trade, taxi drivers, travel agencies and operators as well as traders have been bearing the brunt of the disturbances," he said. Kanoo, who is a YBA Kanoo board member and deputy general manager of its travel group, said the private sector was ready to step in to help the government project a better image of the country. "We will take all necessary steps to ensure we do our best," he said. "We will do everything we can to get tourists back - whether they are cruise passengers or others." He blamed unfair reporting by foreign news agencies for the cancellation of cruise ships. "This is all due to the continuous media misinformation," he said. "No one knows Bahrainis are peace-loving people and that the problems here are just temporary. Every nation has problems and these are solved." However, Kanoo added steps were needed to ensure everyone lived peacefully and prospered. "Now is the time to take some courageous steps," he said. "A new effort is needed." Mathias Tourism managing director Richard Mathias, whose company promotes Bahrain to the cruise industry worldwide, said visits to Bahrain by more than 20,000 cruise passengers since the season started in mid-December had passed without incident. "Cruise tourists have enjoyed themselves in Bahrain, even going everywhere on bicycles, roaming around in the suq and visiting historical places," he said.
The Aida Blu, which was the only cruise ship making calls to Bahrain this season, is scheduled to make three other weekly visits before the season ends next month. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Bahrain's Taxi and Pick Up Drivers Union said cabbies had been directly affected by cruise cancellations. He said cruise tourists used around 150 taxis every Wednesday. "We hope they don't stop coming because that would affect us," he said.
Seatrade Middle East officials earlier said every vessel that berthed in Bahrain could be worth around $300,000 to the economy, with an estimated spend of $274,165 per call. Up to 70 cruise ships docked in Bahrain every season before the country was hit by unrest last year. Only 29 visits took place between November 2010 and February last year, when cruise operators cancelled stops in Bahrain due to anti-government protests. Costa Cruises, which had scheduled 30 visits to Bahrain this season, skipped the country altogether this year and opted for Khasab, in Oman, instead.