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Abu Dhabi cruise tourism sector charts buoyant future

HE Saif Saeed Ghobash with Chris Hayman, Chairman, Seatrade.

Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum to showcase boost in cruise passenger numbers and economic impact.

ABU DHABI, UAE – Abu Dhabi’s cruise tourism sector is on course for exponential expansion according to Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the body responsible for the development of the emirate’s cruise tourism sector, delegates heard today at the 2016 Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum being held in the UAE capital.

Welcoming delegates to the Forum, which runs at the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island until Wednesday (December 14), HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), outlined how the cruise sector is now a primary niche product in the emirate’s tourism development strategy.

An economic impact and forecasting report by Oxford Economics, commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Ports and Etihad Airways, signals that the Abu Dhabi cruise tourism segment achieved a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% in the last five years, and forecasts further sustained growth at a 10.5% CAGR to reach a total of 450,000 cruise passengers by 2020, rising to 808,428 in 2025.

This season, Abu Dhabi is set to welcome over 250,000 passengers from 137 calls by 26 ships – an increase of 21% over last year – in a season which runs until early June 2017.

“Our strategic intervention is supporting Abu Dhabi’s cruise indusrty, and we will continue to build on the significant achievements in the development of Abu Dhabi’s cruise sector by building capacity through effective partnership in the development of our cruise tourism economy,” said Ghobash.

The report findings predict that total direct spending from the cruise sector will increase by 71% to AED 417 million (US $113 million) by 2020, from a benchmark of AED 244 million (US $66 million) in 2015. This is forecast to almost further double to AED 745 million (US $202 million) by 2025.

Projections are that in this baseline scenario, the number of cruise ships calling at Abu Dhabi will increase to 258 by 2025, and this growth will sustain 2,117 direct and ancillary cruise sector jobs in the Emirate.

Addressing the Forum, organised by Seatrade and hosted by TCA Abu Dhabi, at which key decision-makers from some of the world’s top cruise lines are being hosted, HE Ghobash added: “TCA Abu Dhabi and its cruise stakeholders have worked hand-in-hand with leading cruise lines to develop infrastructure, streamline marketing effort and create a desirable cruise destination.

“A continued joint approach toward building capacity will be key to ensuring we all share a sustainable growth agenda and fulfil our ambitions to expand the region’s cruise sector.”

The TCA Abu Dhabi Director General reflected on a number of significant achievements which have laid the foundation for the projected growth since the UAE capital last hosted this important Forum in 2013.

Two major projects announced at the time – a permanent cruise terminal and a dedicated cruise beach stopover in the Western Region – have been successfully completed, enriching the experience of cruise ship passengers through collaboration with airline, travel and hospitality partners.

The Forum is also expected to hear how Abu Dhabi is forging ahead with differentiating its shore excursion itineraries for cruise passengers by promoting Abu Dhabi as a culturally authentic, family leisure destination.

Updating the industry on the emirate’s rapid development, delegates heard how Abu Dhabi is set for a record 2016/17 cruise season, supported by an expanded roster of home-porting vessels to be hosted at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal and a record number of passengers and first-time ship arrivals.

Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning cruise season will witness three Abu Dhabi originating cruise departures, ten new ‘maiden’ callers and nine regional rotational callers for the forthcoming season – both the highest ever recorded.

TCA Abu Dhabi is actively developing the cruise market sector by encouraging winter cruise season home-porting opportunities. A series of significant efforts have been made to develop the sector and its assets supporting the cruise landscape, showcasing market growth and cruise tourist arrivals, as well as strong commitment to tourism asset development.

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