UAE Ports Target 1 Million Cruise Passengers by 2020

By ,   November 13, 2016 ,   Cruise Industry

The United Arab Emirates' cruise ports of Abu Dhabi and Dubai revealed they are on target to welcome 500,000 and 1 million cruise passengers, respectively, by 2020.

Meanwhile, Oman is expecting to break this year's figure of 200,000 cruise passengers in 2017.

The two emirates, along with Oman and neighbouring state Qatar, have formed a body - Cruise Arabia - in a bid to boost cruise visits and passenger numbers to the region, as well as speak with one voice at events.

Dubai is set for a record cruise season - welcoming 150 cruise ships and 620,000 passengers, up from 134 ship and 500,000 passengers the previous year - a growth of 29 per cent year-on-year.

Dubai is currently home to two cruise terminals, with the most recent terminal opened in 2014.

Speaking to Cruise Critic this week at World Travel Market in London, Director of Cruise Tourism in Dubai Jamal Humaid Al Falasi said:

"Our cruise passenger capacity in Dubai is 16,000, which means we can accommodate five ships at any one time.

"With most cruise lines' itineraries now fixed for the 2018 cruise season, we would like to encourage more cruise lines to homeport in Dubai from the 2019-2020 cruise season."

Thomson Celebration became the sixth cruise ship to homeport in Dubai this year, adding seven-night Arabian Adventures cruises to its itineraries for the 2016-2017 season.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi seeks to grow its cruise passenger traffic to 500,000 by 2020 with the opening of its new cruise terminal last year and by opening Sir Bani Yas Island as an overnight call for cruise ships from November 2016. Sir Bani Yas Island is set to receive 39 cruise ships and 65,000 passenger calls this season alone.

Abu Dhabi port

Abu Dhabi's 2014/2015 cruise season saw 94 cruise ship and 190,000 passenger calls, while the 2015/2016 season saw 113 ships and 231,660 passenger calls - an increase of 22 per cent year-on-year.

Oman meanwhile has redeveloped Khasab, on the Strait of Hormuz, a former container port, into a cruise port.

Oman's Undersecretary of Tourism for Oman, Maitha Al-Mahrouqi, who was also attending WTM, said: "We have identified cruise as one of the big growth sectors of tourism for Oman, and we have put a strong focus on developing the cruise sector.

"Before we used to define two tourism sectors - business and leisure - and now we have identified key parts of the leisure sector, of which cruise is a major one."

Ms Al-Mahroqi added that Oman's longer-term goal was to make the country a "cruise hub" and encourage passengers to add on stays either side of their visit, as Dubai and Abu Dhabi have done successfully.

A number of cruise lines already call in at Oman's two other ports - Salalah and Muscat - including Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC, Norwegian from next year, TUI and Holland America Line.

The newest line to start operations in the Gulf region will be Celestyal Cruises, which will base Celestyal Nefli in Dubai from next year.