Bahrain hopes that the tourism and hospitality sector will contribute “double digits” to its GDP over the next several years, according to Ali Ghunam Murtaza, the director of real estate, tourism and leisure business development at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).
According to official figures, tourism contributed 6.3 percent to Bahrain’s GDP in 2017.
Speaking to Arabian Business at the Arabian Travel Market, Murtaza said that the figure is likely to grow as ongoing tourism projects are completed.
“We foresee the contribution to go up for many reasons. Part of that is that we are actively working towards it. We want the contribution of tourism to increase along with other sectors in Bahrain,” he said. ” It’s an active strategy.”
“Through direct and indirect investment to tourism, I think it will be a big part of GDP,” he added. “Our aim is to get into double digits soon.”
In the longer term, Murtaza said he hopes that tourism’s contribution to GDP will reach as high as 20 percent, as much as other sectors such as banking.
“We aim to get it there in the long run,” he noted, adding that the county also hopes to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2020, up from approximately 12.7 million in 2017.
Additionally, Murtaza noted that investment in Bahrain’s tourism sector has reached $13 billion, a figure which encompasses 14 separate projects in the country’s tourism and leisure sector.
The tourism projects, in turn, form part of a larger infrastructure development campaign across a number of sectors, which is collectively valued at more than $32 billion.
“We have fantastic five-star resorts coming in, such as the Address, the Vida, the Jumeirah [Royal Saray], and so forth,” he said. “In addition to that, we’ve also started adding to our retail offerings, such as The Avenues, and we have a couple of others.”
To encourage more visitors to come to Bahrain, Murtaza noted that Gulf Air has invested nearly $7.2 billion to expand its fleet and “modernise the Gulf Air brand”, as well as $1.1 billion investments into expanding and improving Bahrain’s national airport, a project which Murtaza said is approximately 60 percent complete.
Looking to the future, Murtaza said that partnering with foreign investors is a key pillar of Bahrain’s strategy to increase visitor numbers and revenue from tourism.
“We work with them [companies based outside of Bahrain] very closely to identify opportunities where they can bring synergy to the table, where they bring quality investment, quality operations,” he said. “There are a lot of firms around the world with a lot of specific experiences.”
“We work to identify the top ones, and we work to get them to like Bahrain, get them to understand the opportunities, and then we enable the investment,” he added. “We are partners for the long-run.”