Bahrain - There has been a staggering 984 per cent increase in the number of tourists arriving in Bahrain in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period last year.

According to the Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA), the kingdom received nearly 1.7 million visitors in Q1 2022, against 152,000 in Q1 2021.

The quantum jump follows the easing of Covid-19 related travel restrictions as global passenger movement picks up in an effort to reach the 2019 levels.

The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibition Authority (BTEA) also affirmed yesterday that tourism revenues also rose to BD292 million ($774m) during the first three months of this year compared with BD30m ($80m) during the same period last year – an increase of 875pc.

According to the latest iGA statistics more than 1.483m tourists entered Bahrain through King Fahad Causeway in Q1 2022 compared with about 84,000 in Q1 2021, reflecting an increase of 1,666pc.

The number of tourists arriving through Bahrain International Airport (BIA) also rose by 147pc, from 67,000 (Q1 2021) to 166,000 (Q1 2022).

During the same period, the number of licensed tourist facilities, such as hotels, apartments, restaurants and tour companies, climbed from 721 to 922, and the number of tourist nights increased from 341,000 to more than 2.9m.

“The positive indicators reflect the success of the kingdom’s tourism sector by implementing the initiatives of the priorities within the Economic Recovery Plan, and the effectiveness of initiatives and programmes carried out by the BTEA,” said BTEA chief executive Dr Nasser Qaedi in a statement.

He added that the surge in the number of tourists confirms the high success of major tourism and entertainment events held in Bahrain, such as the Formula 1 race, the Bahrain Food Festival, which attracted about 175,000 visitors over two weeks, the Manama Gold Festival, which featured about 180 stores notching sales of BD1.1m, as well as unprecedented promotional campaigns for Bahrain’s tourism sector globally.

The BTEA has recently signed 75 agreements with tour operators in Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Italy, and launched a special BTEA office at BIA to welcome and guide tourists.

Other key initiatives included the launch of an electronic system to link hotels and restaurants to the BTEA and gather accurate statistics, and the launch of local events listing.

The authority also announced the upcoming launch of a fully-featured software for tourism in Bahrain, along with tours of the Manama Suq.

The other heavyweights involved in bolstering the hospitality sector in Bahrain include the new Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Sakhir, 70pc of whose construction has been completed and slated to open later this year, Bahrain Bay Beach, Galali Beach and the diving park.

The world’s largest underwater theme park, the BD2.5m Dive Bahrain, is set to reopen next year following a revamp.

The Covid-19 pandemic affected the tourism industry globally, with Bahrain suffering an estimated BD1 billion blow as a result of the outbreak and the restrictions put in place to help prevent its spread, Bahrain officials have said previously.

However, Industry and Commerce Minister Zayed Alzayani told MPs in March last year when he was also handling the tourism portfolio, that the sector is projected to generate BD2bn in five years.

This includes BD1bn tourism revenue generation this year – a 100pc increase from the BD500m recorded last year, BD1.5bn next year, BD1.7bn in 2024, BD1.9bn in 2025 and BD2bn in 2026.

Bahrain saw BD1.5bn revenue in 2019, which plunged to BD300m in 2020 due to the pandemic.

According to the latest UN World Tourism Organisation World Tourism Barometer released earlier this month, international tourism saw a 182pc year-on-year increase in January-March 2022, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117m international arrivals compared with 41m in Q1 2021.

Of the extra 76m international arrivals for the first three months, about 47m were recorded in March, showing that the recovery is truly gathering pace.

It added that the Middle East (+132pc) and Africa (+96pc) also saw strong growth in Q1 2022 compared with 2021, but arrivals remained 59pc and 61pc below 2019 levels respectively.

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