Eye on cruise tourism in the MENA region

Eye on cruise tourism in the MENA region

A few days ago, DP World, UAE Region’s Mina Rashid bagged the award for the World’s Leading Cruise Port once again at the World Travel Awards (WTA) 2020. The award is considered a noteworthy accolade in the travel industry. HN spoke with Mohammed Al Mannaei, CEO, P&O Marinas and executive director at Mina Rashid to shed light on the region’s growing cruise tourism market.

  • Why do you think cruise tourism is growing in popularity in our region?

The cruise sector is the fastest growing sector in the Middle East. Before the pandemic struck, the cruise market, particularly in the Middle East, had been growing rapidly with every passing year. According to the 2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report, growth plans across the Middle East and the Indian Ocean set up the year for a 63.5 percent YoY increase in guest capacity.

  • Which countries are most active in this regard?

Mohammed Al Mannaei

Overall, the cruise industry in the Arabian Gulf is thriving. As for the UAE, Dubai’s popularity as a cruising destination is fortified by its diverse attractions and easy accessibility. At a national level, the maritime tourism sector in the UAE is expected to contribute more than USD 410 million to Dubai’s economy by 2030. The emirate concluded its 2018-19 cruise season with a record increase of more than 51 percent  in cruise tourist footfall and a 38 percent  increase in cruise ship calls season-on-season. There were 846,176 cruise visitors via 152 ship calls during the season, compared to 558,781 visitors onboard 110 ships in 2017-18.

  • What was the role DPW played to activate this industry?

DPW has played an integral role in enhancing the cruising industry in the UAE and the Middle East. In 2018/2019, DP World’s Mina Rashid Cruise Terminal witnessed 14 maiden calls and welcomed leading international cruise liners such as TUI Cruises, AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises, P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean cruise line to the homeport in Dubai. The season concluded with the departure of the ‘Karnika’, India’s first premium cruise ship from Jalesh Cruises which has recently homeported in Dubai.

Since its inauguration in 2014, Mina Rashid’s Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal has received over 2.3 million visitors, marking a 172 per cent increase towards the end of 2018. The cruise terminal can simultaneously handle seven mega-cruise vessels or 25,000 passengers in a single day. The port’s Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal, which is also the world’s largest single, covered cruise terminal facility can handle 14,000 passengers per day. Our state-of-the-art facilities, the high volume of passenger handling capacity and strategic location have cemented its position as the leading port globally. In fact, this is primarily the reason why Mina Rashid has yet again been awarded the Middle East’s Leading Cruise Port at the World Travel Awards 2020 that was held recently. This is the 13th consecutive year we have won this prestigious accolade.

  • Tell us more about your new tourism partnerships?
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Through various collaborations, we have ensured that Mina Rashid fortifies Dubai’s position as a global city and a premier cruise hub in the Middle East. Our ventures over the years have greatly contributed to the city’s cruise tourism, acting as strong economic catalysts.

We also firmly believe in supporting the global cruise industry in every way possible. During the initial phase of the pandemic, we received 13 cruise ships that were stuck in the region with approximately 39,000 passengers, including 22,000 tourists and 17,000 marine crew members. We facilitated their departure from the UAE, ensuring their safe return to their home countries, and are now gearing up for the upcoming season with all safety and precautionary measures in place to offer an exceptional experience to all the tourists

Mina Rashid is also currently undergoing an expansion to improve its capabilities, through a world-class recreational area that will symbolise Dubai’s rich cultural heritage. Due to high demand, it is also working towards providing improved berthing services for private yacht owners looking to make Dubai a home for their vessels, and position the terminal as one of the world’s premier cruise tourism hubs. We are constantly investing in enhancing the services and support systems for today’s fleet of ultra-modern cruise vessels

  • Do you think the industry will grow further after COVID-19?

We enjoyed a great year last year and hopefully, this is just a temporary lull. We are optimistic that the industry will be back in action soon. We ourselves have been monitoring the situation closely and feel confident we can assure customer safety. Our long-standing relationship with shipping lines and our mutually beneficial relationship with stakeholders around the world have held us in good stead as we identify appropriate solutions to ensure tourism flows and business continuity in Dubai. With all measures in place, we expect to see cruise ships bringing tourists back to Dubai. 

  • Where do you see the business in the coming few years?

The cruise sector has always shown great potential, especially in Dubai. Considering the inclusion of a number of steps that will benefit tourists and cruise operators, growth can be expected as we move into 2021. 

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