ABU DHABI, UAE – Maritime industry experts speaking at the third annual edition of the World Ports & Trade Summit will turn their attention from seaborne trade issues to cruise and marina development, as global industry leaders, waterborne tourism experts and port operators return to Abu Dhabi from 19-20 March 2013.
Held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), the two-day conference programme will include a special session on cruise and marina tourism in the Gulf and Middle East on March 20th, as growth for the GCC hospitality market is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 8.1%, reaching $28.3bn by 2016.
Industry leaders, port operators and tourism experts will join in an interactive discussion looking at the development of cruise facilities in the region and the expanding portfolio of regional marinas driven by demand from high net-worth super-yacht owners in the Gulf.
“There is a compelling argument for world-class super yacht marina development and ongoing investment into the creation of international standard cruise hubs as key contributors to the bigger picture for seaborne trade in the region,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, organisers of the World Ports & Trade Summit.
The panel line-up for the conference session includes Eamon Bradshaw, CEO, Galway Port, Helen Beck, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises & Regional Director, International Representatives – Europe, Middle East & Africa; Gary Groenewold, VP, Westrec Marinas & Board Member of the International Super-yacht Society and current chairman of the Association of Marine Industries, USA; and Hamad Mohammed Bin Mejren, Executive Director – Business Tourism, DTCM.
According to Helen Beck of Royal Caribbean International, one of the ongoing challenges for cruise ship operators in the region is the lack of variety of ports of call currently available and the actual location of the facilities, as she explains: “Most of the berths for cruise vessels in the region are located within commercial shipping ports, which means that they are not necessarily well-suited to the particular needs of cruise vessels and the passengers. There has been very welcome investment by the port and tourism authorities in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat; however we need this example to be followed by other ports and destinations around the region.”
Beck also reports a “very healthy” 2012/13 cruise season, with most schedules virtually sold-out however, the future appeal of the region is dependent on investment into dedicated cruise hubs.
“We encourage all of our port partners to interact with the cruise lines to really understand the needs of each cruise company – both from the marine and guest experience perspective; and it is very important that governments and official bodies work together to develop an integrated cruise tourism strategy across all [relevant] authorities to ensure that everyone is aligned in a common vision,” she said.
With development of a number of regional marinas set to resume after being placed on hold during the financial downturn, new waterfront destinations are also being launched from Bahrain to the Sinai Peninsula.
“We are seeing active marina development across the Gulf. Bahrain is restarting $80m worth of mixed-use projects with the Muharraq coastal site and delayed King Fasial Corniche seafront project both given the green light; and Oman plans a new 100-berth marina project as part of the Jebel Sifah development, and has already launched the first 120 berths at its super-yacht Almouj Marina on The Wave in Muscat,” said Hayman.
An annual calendar event for global economists, port authorities, terminal operators, shipping companies, global cargo owners and investors, the two-day summit will take place at the five-star St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort.
Organised by Seatrade, the World Ports & Trade Summit is held in strategic partnership with the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC).