Dubai’s number of cruise tourists is expected to take a dip this coming season, which runs from this month to May, as regional unrest continues in the region.
About 20 cruise lines are expected to bring 300,000 tourists to the emirate over the season, according to Dubai Cruise Tourism, a unit of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
Last season, 410,000 cruise passengers came to Dubai, a 3 per cent increase over a year earlier.
Chris Hewett, a senior consultant at Tri Hospitality Consulting, said cruise visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi had tended to be part of either Arabian Gulf cruises or wider Middle East cruises that included Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan and, in the past, Syria.
“However, due to the civil unrest experienced in a number of these destinations, including Syria, Egypt and Bahrain, demand has reduced on these routes,” he added. “Cruises dedicated to the Gulf have shown growth in recent years, which has offset the reduction in the Middle East routes.”
Given the expansion plans at Dubai’s cruise terminal and talk of a regional tourism visa that would allow entry to all six GCC countries next year, the sector looks positive, said Mr Hewett.
MSC Cruises is the latest liner to call Dubai home this season.
Apart from MSC, another Italian liner, Costa Cruises, and Germany’s Aida Cruises will operate Gulf cruise itineraries out of Dubai this season. There will be a total deployment of four ships from the three liners.
TUI Cruises from Germany, which started serving Dubai last season, will resume operations from the 2014-15 season.
The United States-based Royal Caribbean, which started operations in the emirate in 2010, is expected to be back in the 2015-16 season.
Nothing is confirmed yet, said Lakshmi Durai, the executive director for Middle East at Royal Caribbean International, but the liner was not sailing from Dubai this season.
Last season 93 ships called in on Dubai, seven of them for the first time. Dubai features as a port of call in the itineraries of more than 20 cruise lines, according to DTCM.
Dubai Cruise Terminal is undergoing an expansion for the new season, which will add 27,000 square metres to the facility. Once completed, the terminal will be able to handle five cruise ships at a time.
Abu Dhabi is anticipating around 200,000 cruise passengers for the 2013-2014 season from 79 arrivals.
In the 2012-2013 season, it had 170,911 passengers from 96 arrivals, a 3 per cent increase over the previous year.
The season in Abu Dhabi starts November 12 and runs through April 26, 2014.
Most of the cruise liners that ply Dubai also make a call to the capital, such as Costa Fortuna and Costa Neo Riviera that will travel to Oman’s Muscat and Khasab besides Abu Dhabi from their Dubai home port this season.