Bahrain's tourism sector is expected to register a 53 per cent growth this year compared with last year, according to an industry expert.

The sector is among the hardest hit by the ongoing global pandemic with a loss of between $1.7 trillion and $2.4 trillion in 2021, compared with 2019 levels, according to the latest report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

However, the latest market trends indicate an uptick in the hospitality and tourism sector, with four- and five-star properties doing decent business in Manama this year compared with 2020.

“The announcement (by Bahrain) of new entry restrictions on an additional 19 countries has had a significant impact on inbound tourism recovery,” Colliers International, Middle East and North Africa (Mena) associate director James Wrenn told the GDN.

“However, the market is still expected to achieve a year-on-year improvement of 53pc in 2021 compared with 2020.

“This results in an expected occupancy rate of 43pc across the Manama market.”

A GDN report last month said Bahrain’s hotels witnessed high occupancy levels in May 2021 beating the performance of some countries in the Middle East.

Staycations, re-opening of the King Fahad Causeway and the quarantine business continued to be the three main drivers of the increase in the number of guests staying at four- and five-star properties.

“Although the demand is still suppressed in the market, growing confidence in the recovery plan introduced in January has contributed to the opening of the two planned Swiss-Belhotel properties in Manama,” added Mr Wrenn.

“In addition, the reopening of the King Fahd Causeway for vaccinated travellers marks the return of a key leisure source market that will support long-term recovery.”

However, the industry expert added the improved domestic tourism offering in Saudi Arabia has resulted in a more competitive environment.

Mr Wrenn said Bahrain continues to be on track to boost the tourism sector especially making it the top MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) destination.

“Looking towards the future, the pipeline is robust with an additional 17 projects in active development in Bahrain, adding a further 3,000 keys into the market by 2024,” he added.

“The forthcoming opening of the planned new Bahrain International Exhibition and Convention Centre in Sakhir in 2022 is expected to help diversify the demand segmentation and sources in the long term,” said Mr Wrenn.

The BD83.6 million mega project is the largest in the Middle East sitting on a plot of 1.3 million square metres with the central complex covering 300,000sqm.

The GDN reported last week that Manama is one of nine GCC cities where India’s Taj Group plans to open hotels,Group resident director for the Middle East and North Africa Sunil Sinha told online news portal Zawya that at least five Taj hotels across the region will open over the next two years, and there are plans to expand the hospitality brand into Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Doha, Manama, Cairo, and Istanbul.

In a vote of confidence for Bahrain’s hospitality sector, the Hilton Garden Inn Bahrain Bay opened to guests just before Eid Al Adha last month.

The 192-room hotel, next to The Avenues mall, is the first to open under Hilton’s portfolio of brands in the kingdom.

Also being developed at Bilaj Al Jazayer are two four-star boutique hotels and a beach club, as part of a plan by Bahrain Real Estate Investment Company (Edamah) to create a new leisure and entertainment destination in Zallaq.

Meanwhile, the debut Raffles hotel in Bahrain likely to open this year with the transformation of the current Al Areen Palace and Spa by Accor into Raffles Al Areen Palace.

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