A development frenzy is taking place both in and around the UAE’s ports, as the country seeks to cement its position as a leading cruise destination. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the number of cruise passengers forecast to visit the UAE this year is expected to rise to 21.7 million, up around two percent on 2013.
Port development and expansion is currently underway in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Khor Fakkan, with Mina Zayed — formerly Abu Dhabi’s main commercial port — set to become a permanent cruise terminal by the 2014/15 season.
Sultan Al-Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism Sector, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, explained that the development of new tourist attractions within the emirate needed to go hand-in-hand with port development.
“The first step is to ensure the destination has a range of quality activities and experiences to encourage cruise lines to consider making a call, and the growth in the leisure offering of both the capital and the wider emirate in recent years is a great advantage,” said Al-Dhaheri.
“The challenge is to then differentiate these shore excursion opportunities from other Arabian Gulf destinations, so while we have desert tours, we can place emphasis on new facilities on Yas Island and the emergence of the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural assets on Saadiyat Island.”
In neighboring Dubai, DP World, the world’s third-largest port operator, is developing a second terminal at Port Rashid, expected to be completed in the first half of this year. Once fully operational, the new terminal will enable the port to handle more than 14,000 cruise passengers a day.
Meanwhile, hotels in Dubai are preparing to cater to the increased influx of visitors. During 2013, hotels in Dubai enjoyed the highest levels of profit in the region, according to a report by TRI Hospitality Consulting ahead of the Destination Dubai exhibition at Arabian Travel Market.
The report revealed that gross operating profits per available room (GOPPAR) increased 10.3 perent to US$206, with average room rates (ARR) up by 6.5 percent for the year, to US$324.
Revenue per available room (RevPAR) was also up by 7.6 percent during the same period.
According to figures from the Dubai government, the number of guests who had visited the emirate within the first nine months of 2013 was 7.9 million. This equated to a year-on-year increase of almost ten percent.
In terms of tourism spend, an increase of 17 percent was reported, compared with the same period in 2012, due primarily to longer average stays.