The cruise sector in Abu Dhabi is celebrating a year of achievement with record numbers of ship calls and passengers arriving in the emirate during the previous season and the successful launch of the Arabian Gulf’s only dedicated cruise beach stopover.
During the season, which runs from October until June, Abu Dhabi received more than 100 ship calls for the first time ever, seven regional rotational callers, which is the highest ever recorded, and welcomed more than 228,000 passengers, making the emirate a firm fixture on the world cruise map.
The previous season, Abu Dhabi reported 94 ship calls and 200,000 passengers. Ten years ago just 35,000 passengers and 29 ship arrivals visited the emirate.
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), which is responsible for developing the industry in the emirate along with its partners, expects annual growth rate to exceed more than 10 per cent following a highly successful 2015-16 season and a strong start to the new season, which will be the longest Abu Dhabi has held.
The rise in projected passenger figures, currently estimated at 250,000 passengers this season, to reach 450,000 by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025, is due to a series of initiatives to encourage the emirate to develop its cruise sector as this has been identified as a primary niche product in the emirate’s economic diversification.
Towards the end of 2016, Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach was opened in the Western Region and is now the Gulf region’s only dedicated desert island cruise stopover, which will attract more than 60,000 passengers in its first season.
The official launch coincided with the arrival of the MSC Fantasia, which has made Abu Dhabi Cruise terminal its winter sun home port.
HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General, TCA Abu Dhabi, said: “Our strategic intervention is strengthening the cruise sector’s influence on the tourism economy and contributing to the emirate’s economic diversification. This is now Abu Dhabi’s longest ever cruise season where we will welcome 139 ship calls to Abu Dhabi and 39 to Sir Bani Yas Island.
“This season we welcome the home porting of Celebrity Constellation, MSC Fantasia and AIDA Cruises and have nine regional rotational callers confirmed – which is the highest ever – and expect 10 maiden callers. Together with Abu Dhabi Ports and Etihad Airways we have been actively pursuing opportunities to achieve greater levels of growth through developing long-term partnerships and cooperation which adds more value to the services and facilities we offer.”
In December, TCA Abu Dhabi hosted the Sea Trade Middle East Cruise Forum on Al Maryah Island where senior cruise line executives, tourism authorities, industry stakeholders and global tour operators heard that the Authority and its cruise stakeholders have worked together with leading cruise lines to develop infrastructure, streamline marketing efforts and create a first-class cruise destination.
Crucial to the ongoing success of the cruise sector has been the successful launches of the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal in 2015 and the Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach destination.
Further increases in passenger numbers are expected in upcoming cruise seasons as Abu Dhabi is poised to become the regional hub for ‘Halal Cruising’. TCA Abu Dhabi is working on new initiatives to encourage cruise lines to cater for the needs of Muslim travellers and stimulate regional and home-grown demand.
TCA Abu Dhabi has already partnered with HalalBooking.com – the world’s leading online halal accommodation booking platform – and many local destination management companies are now supporting international operators with halal products.
By improving on shore excursions across the emirate and offering a diverse choice of activities and attractions, cruise partners are hopeful of making Abu Dhabi a not-to-miss destination in the Arabian Gulf for potential passengers choosing their itineraries and holidays while in their home countries.