Bahrain looks to once-disputed islands to boost tourism

Published May 2nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Bahrain is counting on the Hawar islands to boost tourism, following a settlement with Qatar on the territory, a Bahraini official said Tuesday, May 1. "The Hawar islands are a very good attraction and will definitely be something to boost tourism," said Bader Nasser, head of marketing for Bahrain's tourism department. 

 

"People want to go there now. There are already many facilities on the islands but we have plans to develop them further, with more hotels, chalets and a new port," Nasser told AFP on the sidelines of a travel fair in Dubai. 

 

Both Bahrain and Qatar have put the spotlight on development since their 60-year-old dispute, over territories potentially rich in gas and oil, was settled by the World Court in mid-March. 

 

The World Court endorsed Bahrain's sovereignty over the Hawar islands and Qitat Jarada island, but the Zubara strip stayed in the hands of the Qatari peninsula, which was also awarded the Fasht al-Dibel rocks and Jinan island. 

 

Bahrain, with its 33 islands, currently only has two seafront hotel resorts and seven five-star hotels but has embarked on an ambitious one-billion-dollar tourism project to build a string of artificial islands. 

 

The project spread over five islands will comprise nine five-star hotels, a zoo and a number of homes, apartment blocks, recreation facilities, commercial complexes and sports centers. 

 

As the only Gulf Arab state not to export oil, Bahrain is counting on tourism to diversify sources of revenue. It attracted 3.33 million visitors in 2000, an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year. 

 

This week, however, it introduced new curbs on visits by women from the former Soviet Union traveling alone, in an apparent crackdown on prostitution. 

 

Unaccompanied women from the Commonwealth of Independent States will now have to arrange visas in advance from Bahraini embassies, travel agents, hotels or companies, rather than receive an entry visa at Manama airport like other visitors. — (AFP, Dubai) 

 

© Agence France Presse 2001

© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)

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