x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Cruise terminal to open in Dubai

Dubai's new cruise terminal is expected to open in January and is seen as a key part of the strategy to boost tourist numbers.

Dubai's new cruise terminal is expected to open in January to support the emirate's plans for growing its cruise industry, seen as a key part of its strategy to boost tourist numbers, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) says. Royal Caribbean's first ship based in the Middle East, Brilliance of the Seas, will start sailing from its home port of Dubai in January, stopping at Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

Italy's Costa Cruises has also increased its presence in Dubai, having made the emirate its regional hub in 2007. The DTCM predicts that the overall number of cruise liner passengers in the emirate will top 260,000 this year. Next year, Dubai expects an additional 99 ships carrying more than 383,000 passengers. Until the opening, "a temporary set-up will be made to cater to the needs of the cruise ships calling in at Dubai from" this month, said Hamad bin Mejren, the executive director of business tourism at the DTCM. The interim facility features a number of large tents.

The official announcement of the new terminal's opening will be made at the Seatrade exhibition in Hamburg on September 15. It will be the only cruise terminal in the world to be operated by a government department of tourism, according to the DTCM. The new terminal will have the capacity to handle up to four ships at the same time. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi is also hoping to capitalise on the cruise industry and has said that it also recognised its importance in plans to increase tourist numbers. The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) expects 59 per cent growth in cruise passenger arrivals in the 2009-2010 season, which runs from next month to May next year.

But it is also looking at the potential for Abu Dhabi to become a home port on its own and is working on a market study on the capital's cruise potential. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year. "It is considered Abu Dhabi has strong potential to develop as a home or turnaround port for cruise ships," said Lawrence Franklin, the director of strategy and policy at the ADTA. If the market study is favourable, Mr Franklin said that it would take between four and six years to build a cruise terminal facility in Abu Dhabi. "Terminal development also includes uses such as retail, restaurants, accommodation, conference and office space," he said.

On average, cruise tourists spend more than US$300 (Dh1,100) per visit, while members of crew spend $150, according to the ADTA. "The market obviously ranges between the low-cost volume cruise business and the very high-end exclusive cruises," Mr Franklin said. "Abu Dhabi will be targeting the higher end of the business segment." The number of cruise ships stopping in Abu Dhabi has grown to more than 50 in the 2008-2009 season, from about 10 a year in 1999. The ADTA expects more than 60 ships and 190,000 visitors to stop in the capital next season, but at the moment most of these are just day visits.

With the necessary planning and infrastructure, Mr Franklin said that a target of 300 ships and more than 600,000 passengers could be achievable for Abu Dhabi by 2030. rbundhun@thenational.ae