RIVAL five star hotels in Bahrain are setting aside commercial competition and joining forces to help sell the kingdom across the world as a desirable tourism destination.
Although ART Rotana, Amwaj Islands and Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa compete intensively to woo locals and expats to enjoy their facilities and restaurants, alongside Saudi weekend visitors, they are looking at the bigger picture with a united beach front.
The unlikely partnership was revealed at a meeting by Rotana’s chief operating officer Guy Hutchinson on the side-lines of the Rotana Hotels 2018 GCC Roadshow which touched down in Bahrain last week. “We may be rivals but we have already worked together to highlight what Bahrain as a destination has to offer with European charter operators,” he revealed. “It’s in all our interests to work together and be more aggressive in letting people know just how good it is.
“It’s an exciting time to be in the kingdom what with the on-going airport expansion and impressive retail expansion. The hospitality sector is poised for growth with plans for a further 15 new hotels coming into the market.”
The country has been witnessing a surge in the number of visiting tourists in recent years. During the first nine months of 2017, Bahrain welcomed 8.7 million visitors registering a significant jump of 12.8 per cent compared to the same period the previous year. Investment in Bahrain’s tourism infrastructure reached more than $13billion at the end of the third quarter of the past year.
The news that two of the top hotels are working in harmony to cast the net further afield will be sweet music to the ears of the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA).
BTEA has launched representative offices in seven countries - Saudi Arabia, India, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. These offices are assisting the authority in establishing business relations with travel and tourism organisations, tour operators, travel agents and airlines to promote the kingdom.
“The aim is to develop the bilateral tourism ties and increase the number of travellers visiting the kingdom,” CEO Shaikh Khalid Bin Humood Al Khalifa, added. “Our strategy primarily focuses on positioning the tourism sector as an important economic driver to achieve sustainable growth and development.”
According to a new study by professional service company and one of the major auditors, KPMG, titled Tourism: ‘A Game Changer for the Retail Sector in Bahrain’, tourists’ spending patterns differ, according to the number of days they spend in the country.
On average, tourists arriving via Bahrain International Airport tend to stay four days longer than the tourists arriving through the King Fahad Causeway.
As a tourist destination, Bahrain currently has an average length of stay of 2.6 days compared to 4.2 days in benchmark cities, such as Dubai, New York, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore and London. Hence, there is a huge opportunity to increase revenues for public and private stakeholders in the retail sector, if tourism, including the number of tourists and the length of stays, are improved.
“If Bahrain attracts an additional one million tourists and increases the average stay length to 3.6 days, the country could generate BD300 million of additional revenue from tourists’ expenditure on the retail sector only,” said Kenan Nouwailati, head of management consulting at KPMG in Bahrain.
And leading hotels working in harmony could prove to be a vital component in the charm offensive.
Sofitel Hotels & Resorts is a chain of luxury hotels based in Paris, France, and owned by Accor Hotels since 1980.
Mehdi Hanayen, Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa’s director of operations, said: “Bahrain is the ultimate travel destination in the Middle East with so much to offer and absolute freedom to enjoy your holidays with families and friends. Our island is blessed and surrounded by crystal clear waters and sandy beaches which makes it even more attractive to tourists from all over the world.
“It is extremely important for all hospitality brands and hotels to join forces and promote Bahrain as the top tourist destination with so much to offer!
“Resorts like Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & Spa and ART Rotana, Amwaj Islands are prime examples of how many beautiful resorts we have on the island that can cater to all kinds of demands. As we are seeing increased interest in Bahrain, we will surely be welcoming more and more tourists from Europe and other regions together.”
Rotana, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region with hotels across the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, aims to strengthen its partnership with BTEA and national carrier Gulf Air to step up their joint efforts to promote the country’s tourism sector abroad. In Bahrain it also boasts Majestic Arjaan by Rotana and Downtown Rotana.
“The Bahrain market has seen an increase in recent years of five star hospitality properties and this, of course, fosters a competitive spirit between us,” said Lilian Roger, general manager of ART Rotana, Amwaj Islands. “It is, however, incredibly important that the five star hotels also work together to attract investment and business opportunities from Europe, Asia and further afield and support the various initiatives of BTEA by hosting familiarisation press trips or key international hospitality businesses to promote Bahrain .
GulfWeekly understands other five star hotels are also planning to work together in the near future as the momentum to promote Destination Bahrain globally intensifies.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
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