Tuesday, January 17, 2012

‘Cruise tourism speeding ahead in UAE’

I had a chance to visit “Brilliance of the Seas” cruise ship in Dubai on Sunday to write a report. Sorry about the length .http://www.gulftoday.ae/portal/c062f1f9-6fe9-4e3a-9c66-4c8de727f14b.aspx

Helen Beck

Royal Caribbean - brilliance centrum

Brilliance of the Seas - theater
 DUBAI: Global recession has not bruised the cruise industry in the UAE and the best indication is a significant increase in guest volumes, according to an expert in the cruise tourism industry.
“The Royal Caribbean Cruises Middle East has witnessed an increase in bookings from the region for its global brands. From January through October 2011, the guest volume from the Middle East (ME) has increased more than 30 per cent compared to the same period last year. The UAE also saw the same growth level during the period,” says Helen Beck, Regional Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Royal Caribbean Cruises.
She insists this is a clear signal that the cruise market has moved from ‘niche’ to ‘mainstream’. Helen was speaking to a select group of journalists on board ‘Brilliance of the Seas’ on Sunday.
Asked about the impact the industry will face following the recent ‘Costa Concordia’ ship disaster in Italy which led to loss of lives, Helen echoed the statement of the European Cruise Council which said that “all members operate to the highest safety standards” around the world and “according to international maritime requirements.”
Saying that challenges are not new and the cruise sector always manages to weather the storms, she said, “the sector is turning recession-resilient by adopting various measures, like deployment changes and focus on strengths. I have been in this sector since 2000; and I have seen the business grow and grow.”
“We have been successful once again by achieving overall growth of 56 per cent of guest volume compared to 2010. This growth was achieved by all the nine countries in the Middle East that we represent,” she pointed out.
Cruise tourism is a key growth segment, which will bring great economic benefits to the region, increasing overall expenditure in the tourism sector and boosting the economy.
The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) figures vindicate what Helen cites as a ‘positive indication of growth.’
According to DTCM, cruise tourism saw an annual income of Dhs338 million in 2010 and is estimated to grow to Dhs837 million in 2015. This will see a yield of Dhs3.5 billion into the Dubai economy over those years.
The DTCM has also announced that Dubai closed the year 2011 by receiving a total of 135 cruise ships with 375,000 tourists, while the year 2012 is expected to bring in 150 cruise ships with about 425,000 passengers.
In May this year, Dubai Cruise Terminal was voted Middle East’s leading cruise port for the 4th straight year at the World Travel Awards after about 213,000 industry professionals participated in the voting process.
“We are pleased to see that the interest in cruising in the Middle East is growing year on year,” adds Lakshmi Durai, Executive Director Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises Middle East.
“All markets in the region have contributed well to the success - even countries such as Bahrain and Egypt, which both faced many challenges due to the unrest, showed positive growth compared to last year.”
Durai says: “Approximately 70 per cent of all bookings from the region were made for European cruises. The second most popular destination for cruise travelers from the Middle East was the Caribbean. Being able to showcase our ship ‘Brilliance of the Seas’ - which is sailing in the Gulf now for the third season - to travel agents, media and corporates had a great impact on bookings and further strengthened the positioning of cruising as a holiday option for Middle Eastern guests.”
Asked about latest add-ons, Helen and Lakshmi explained: “To enhance cruising as a holiday option, Royal Caribbean Arabia recently re-launched its website. Through the intuitive navigation structure, all information can be assessed easily on the homepage and the impactful images provide an insight to Royal Caribbean International cruises and its plethora of amenities, entertainment options, food and beverage outlets, range of meeting facilities and celebration ideas.”
Additionally, Royal Caribbean Arabia has developed social media campaigns across platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and has created a blog so that customers can learn more about cruising, interact with Royal Caribbean Arabia and win exciting prizes through competitions on Facebook. “We have seen a rapid increase in the number of fans on our social media in less than a month through our competitions and posts, which also allows us to receive direct feedback,” Durai explained.