The Middle East Cruise Forum, held in Bahrain in May, will bring together experts and leaders from the industry to discuss the ways in which cruise tourism can be maximised in the region.

With the total spend of a 2,000 passenger ship averaging US$274,165 per port of call, as discovered through research conducted by Tony Peisley and Seatrade, cruise tourism is of huge economic benefit to Bahrain and the region as a whole. The benefit of a cruise ship home porting is even greater with total spend of a 2,000 passenger ship averaging US$322,705 per turnaround.

Taking place on 11 May, the conference will cover a range of topics, with a number of high-level speakers providing unrivalled knowledge and experience from the industry. The all-important Keynote Session will encompass a panel discussion with the most influential players in the region’s ports and tourism industry.

Mr Hassan Ali Al Majed, director general of the General of the Organisation of Sea Ports, will be amongst the leaders taking part in the keynote session to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing cruise tourism. Other participants include Dr Heba Aziz, executive director, Tourism Sector, Ministry of Culture & Information Bahrain; Ahmed Abdullah Al Nuami, chairman, Qatar Tourism & Exhibition Authority; Laurent Monsaingeon, past president of MedCruise and Awadh Al Ketbi, Chairman, Al Ketbi Tourism and Hospitality Consultancy.

In addition to the Keynote Session, the conference will cover four main themes, leading with ‘The Growing Momentum for Cruise Tourism in the Region’, which will discuss the growth of the Gulf as a cruise destination, the importance of cruise tourism and factors that can influence cruise liners in their choice of destination.

The ‘Ports, Terminals and Destinations’ session will discuss what factors makes a successful port of call, an update on regional port and terminal development as well as looking at infrastructure, operational issues and the role of agents, handlers and operators. ‘Shore Excursions’ will give delegates the opportunity to discuss the importance of excursions and the most effective way to plan an itinerary. The final ‘Marketing’ session will focus on how the region can effectively market itself as a cruise destination, working with other ports and the great importance of forming a regional cruise association.

Many of the cruise lines most influential decision makers will present to the conference delegates throughout the day, confirmed speakers include Darius Mehta, associate vice president of Silversea, Helen Beck, regional director of Royal Caribbean; John Marden of Carnival, Konstantin Bissias president of Sea Cloud, Mike Pawlus of Seabourn and Tine Oelmann of TUI.

Prior to the conference, the Kingdom of Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture & Information will host an evening welcome reception on 10 May, where delegates, speakers and cruise lines’ representatives will have the opportunity to network and share best practice. A gala dinner will be held following the conference to allow everyone to relax following the day’s discussions, complete with a night of entertainment.

Keynote speaker Mr Hassan Ali Al Majed said: “This is an excellent opportunity for the cruise industry to come together to discuss the growing importance of cruise tourism on the economy and the ways in which it can be maximised. The General Organisation of Sea Ports (GOP) has developed a state of the art port at Khalifa Bin Salman Port and cruise tourism is an increasingly important part of this, which is why when we developed the concept for the port, we made sure to include a dedicated passenger terminal and cruise-ship berth. As a partner for the Middle East Cruise Forum conference, GOP is confident that this is an ideal platform to unify the industry and share best practise, and create a regional cruise association.”

Dr Heba Aziz, executive director of the tourism sector at the Ministry of Culture & Information, said: “Cruise tourism is already an affluent industry for the Kingdom; the Middle East Cruise Forum will enable Bahrain’s cultural and leisure focussed companies to get close to cruise lines and showcase the benefits and facilities on offer to tourists in Bahrain, as well as participating in important debates about the future developments of cruise tourism in the region.”

The Middle East Cruise Forum will take place on May 10-12 at Al Areen Palace & Spa, Bahrain. For further information on the conference and the event, place visit www.seatrade-global.com/bahrain