March 29, 2015
Tourism is an important part of the Bahraini economy –in all, the industry contributed 10.2% of total GDP in 2013 and this number was forecast to rise by 7.6% in 2014*. With hundreds of thousands of visitors a week to a country with a relatively small population, it is clear that making Bahrain attractive to tourists, both those within the region and outside it, is an important element in our future prosperity.
Much of what draws people to Bahrain today is its modern culture. A relaxed sociable atmosphere and a wide range of leisure opportunities – from cinemas, to malls, to world class restaurants – have made the Kingdom a highly popular weekend destination for people in the region.
On top of this, landmark events have helped to increase visitor levels. Prominent festivals such as Bahrain Noor El Ain, which showcases local talent and products throughout the country, provide aspiring artists and entrepreneurs the platform they need to raise their profile.
This year the “Spring of Culture” festival celebrates its 10th anniversary, and its two month programme is packed with performances, art exhibitions, symposia and workshops. It attracts exclusive international acts to join the best of Bahrain’s own innovators; the 2015 festival hosted Oscar award-winner John Legend, jazz sensation Joss Stone, and renowned Egyptian composer Omar Khairat as well as local Mohammed bin Faris band.
And of course Bahrain’s most famous annual fixture is the Formula 1 Grand Prix. The race is viewed by in excess of 500 million racing fans and attracts around 100,000 visitors to the Kingdom each year.
Importantly, though, Bahrain’s appeal does not simply lie in its modern amenities but is also rooted in an authentic culture and history that spans millennia. Dilmun, hailed as the land of plenty and eternity in ancient Sumerian and Mesopotamian literature, is counted among the most sophisticated civilisations of the ancient world. In its heyday, this hub controlled all the Persian trading routes, stretching to the Indus valley and beyond, and was a meeting point for travellers from every corner of the globe.
It is this combination of heritage and modernity that is at the forefront of the Kingdom’s Tourism Strategy 2015-2018.
Yet it is not enough to be home to grand historical monuments and large sporting events alone. A prosperous tourism industry needs the appropriate infrastructure to sustain it. Easily accessible by air, sea or land, Bahrain is perfectly placed to continue its centuries-old tradition of receiving travellers from all over the world and under amendments to the country’s visa policy, visiting has never been easier. Luxury accommodation such as the recently opened Four Seasons Hotel provides an additional incentive and there are more projects being conducted in the south of Bahrain with the aim of boosting resort tourism in the country.
In Bahrain, we have a heritage to be proud of and given the growth trends of populations and disposable income in the region there is huge potential to develop tourism in the country – and sizeable rewards.
* World Travel and Tourism Council’s Bahrain 2014 report, available at: http://www.wttc.org/-/media/files/reports/economic%20impact%20research/country%20reports/bahrain2014.pdf