The News: Infrastructure Upgrades to Boost Bahrain

The Middle Eastern Kingdom of Bahrain, an archipelago of 33 islands situated in the Persian Gulf wants to reduce its reliance on oil revenues and is looking at tourism as an important way to diversify its economy.According to a report from Catalan Cighi, associate in HVS International’s Dubai office, and Hala Matar Choufany, managing director in the same office, Bahrain wants to increase its tourism revenues to 10 percent of GDP by 2014. Improving the country’s access to the outside world is one way of accomplishing that goal, and it has undertaken significant infrastructure improvement projects to further that initiative.The Bahrain International Airport, which serves a country of just over 1 million residents, is undergoing a $300 million expansion to reach a capacity of 15 million passengers when completed in 2010. Also, a $3 billion, 25-mile highway, scheduled to open in 2013, is being built between Bahrain and Qatar. The government has also established an independent, public-private tourism development authority to replace the tourism affairs office within the Ministry of Information that closed at the beginning of this year. Also, the government has earmarked 12 zones for tourism development.Tourism in Bahrain is mostly of a regional nature. Visitation from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, which also include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, accounted for 94 percent of leisure visitors between January and September 2008, while Europeans and Americans accounted for 5 percent of leisure tourists and 18 percent of business visitors.Five-star hotels, mostly well-known international brands, accounted for 28 percent of Bahrain’s rooms. Four-star hotels, mostly local brands, made up 38 percent.The report’s authors note that additions to the supply of five-star hotels has been modest recently, the only newcomer bring the Banyan Tree Resort & Spa, which opened in 2007. But nine hotels are under construction. According to the report, 1,356 rooms are scheduled to come online this year, and another 1,397 rooms are slated for 2010.