H.E. Dr. Abdullah bin Mohammed Balheif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Infrastructure Development and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Authority for Land and Maritime Transport, says that the growth of the maritime tourism sector in recent years reflects the UAE’s position as one of the most developed countries in the world based on the seaports index. H.E. noted that this steady expansion will support the UAE's nomination as a Category B member of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This, he said, is in line with the UAE's desire to broaden its contributions to the development of the global maritime sector through the establishment and enforcement of maritime regulations and laws.
The Minister further explained that the increasing number of cruise lines docking at UAE ports supports the maritime sector’s function as a significant global maritime player. He said: “The UAE prioritizes all aspects of the maritime sector, especially maritime tourism which is playing a greater role in the development of the local maritime cluster, driving economic growth, as well as promoting tourism and economic diversification. The country’s tourism infrastructure is being rapidly expanded to welcome the surge in cruise tourists, while ambitious projects are being implemented to upgrade port infrastructure. The leading position of the UAE as a destination of choice for maritime tourism will encourage international companies to manage their operations and conduct cruises through our local ports.”
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has emerged as a major destination for marine tourism. Port Zayed hosts the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, a state-of-the-art terminal renowned throughout the region and an ideal port of call for passengers traveling by sea to Abu Dhabi. The emirate is also home to various leading cruise operators. Abu Dhabi has launched a series of initiatives to develop its marine tourism sector which forms one of the pillars of its economic diversification strategy. At the end of last year, Sir Bani Yas Island in the Western Region was opened to cruise ships, becoming the only beach stop in the Gulf region. More efforts are being undertaken to further develop, expand and modernize local marine tourism facilities. Fruitful strategic partnerships with cruise lines continue to be signed to drive the growth of the cruise sector in the years to come.
Dubai, on the other hand, saw its maritime tourists and cruises increase significantly by 15 and 18 per cent, respectively, from 2016 to 2017.The emirate is home to the Middle East’s largest and most modern cruise facility which covers 36,500 sqm and extends at a distance of 2,200 m. The maritime tourism sector supports the growth of the local tourism sector in line with the ‘Dubai Tourism Vision 2020’ plan. Mina Rashid currently welcomes around 650,000 passengers, and is expected to attract a million tourists by 2020. The inauguration of two new cruise lines, ‘Norwegian Cruise Line’ and ‘Thomson Cruises,’ will support an 18 per cent increase in the number of cruises in Dubai. The emirate presently hosts more than 23 leading international cruise lines, six of which are based in Dubai, reinforcing its position as a global destination of choice for cruise tourism.
The other emirates are similarly working to drive maritime tourism as part of continuing efforts to cement the UAE’s leading position in the global ports industry. Many ambitious projects are being implemented to develop related infrastructure and services to encourage leading cruise lines to conduct their operations from the UAE.
The UAE is competing with 12 other countries for 10 available seats for Category B membership in the IMO to add value to global transport, trade, shipping and maritime tourism. The candidacy is backed by the country’s competitive advanced marine infrastructure inclusive of 20 globally leading state-of-the-art ports such as Jebel Ali Port which is witnessing increased marine traffic. The UAE hosts many key marine trade events such as ‘Seatrade Maritime Middle East’ which attracts senior officials from leading cruise lines as well as tourism authorities, industry partners and international tourism and travel agencies.