During the handing over of the plaque and keys ceremony aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas to mark her maiden port call in Dubai, Hamad Bin Mejren, senior vice president of Dubai Tourism, said that five key regions are his focus in growing Dubai’s cruise sector.
“The CIS countries, Brazil, India, China and South Africa are the key emerging markets in terms of cruise tourists coming to Dubai,” he told Cruise Arabia & Africa on the side-lines of the ceremony. “For this reason the Cruise Arabia alliance has undertaken roads shows in China and India and we continue to participate in major cruise events in those countries.”
Dubai is the leading cruise hub of the region, accounting for every cruise departure and turnaround in the local market. Cruise passengers boarding cruise ships sailing from the Middle East are primarily fly-cruise tourists, says Bin Mejren, who take advantage of Dubai’s advanced air connections to these key markets.
Cruise Arabia & Africa has previously reported on the growth in the Middle East cruise sector and according to Bin Mejren, the support of major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean is a vital part of Dubai’s ambition to have cruise passenger throughput of 1-million by 2020.
“We are looking forward to the 2015/16 cruise season, especially the resumption of Royal Caribbean’s cruise operation in the region from December, deploying Cruise Ship Splendour of the Seas with Dubai as its homeport,” he said.
The upcoming 2014-15 cruise season (running from October to June – although most roundtrip Dubai to Dubai cruises run from November to April) saw Costa, Aida and MSC, and TUI returning to the region with Dubai as their turnaround homeport.
Royal Caribbean returns next season, sailing roundtrip Dubai cruises in the Arabian Gulf aboard Splendour of the Seas between November, 2015 and April. That alone is expected to boost cruise tourist number for the upcoming season by more than 30,000.
With Dubai playing host to five major cruise line, the long-term strategic focus on developing the Middle East cruise industry is expected to see 450,000 cruise tourists annually by 2016, increasing from just over 386,000 in 2013, said Bin Mejren.