The tourism sector could create a “potentially very significant” boost to Bahrain’s economy, according to Dr. Jarmo Kotilaine, the chief economic adviser of the Bahrain Economic Development Board.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Dr. Kotilaine said that tourism is an opportunity “on multiple levels” for Bahrain, which has traditionally been a weekend destination for travellers from other parts of the GCC, principally Saudi Arabia.
“One of the interesting questions there has been, and remains, how can we achieve more? How can we give people more reasons to come back, to do more things, to potentially stay for a little bit longer?” he said. “That is driving infrastructure development in that space.”
Dr. Kotilaine added that there has been a “growing emphasis on better articulating and defining the tourism identity of Bahrain” and highlighting its long history and variety of offerings.
“It’s almost a microcosm of the region. It has a sort of authenticity, and you can get glimpses of what this region was like decades ago,” he said. “You have the makings and elements of quite an interesting portfolio of offering…..there is still a lot of untapped opportunity.
Additionally, Dr. Kotilaine said that attracting tourist inflows from other markets – rather than the traditional GCC source markets – could “significantly” increase tourism’s contribution to GDP, as well as encourage entrepreneurship in Bahrain and create jobs.
Speaking at a recent event, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority CEO Sheikh Khalid bin Hamoud Al Khalifa said that Bahrain attracted 12 million visitors in 2018, a figure that is expected to rise to 14.6 million in 2022.
He added that tourism’s share in Bahrain’s economy was 6.5 percent, which he believes will rise to 8.3 percent by 2022.
In April 2018, Ali Ghunam Murtaza, the Economic Development Board’s director of real estate, tourism and leisure business development, told Arabian Business that the tourism and hospitality sector will contribute “double digits” to Bahrain’s GDP over the next several years.