The annual Arabian Travel Market roadshow kicks off February 9 at the Gulf Hotel in Bahrain, bringing together key industry players, to discuss marketing opportunities to showcase the Kingdom’s growing tourism potential.

After a year of steady growth, Bahrain’s tourism industry is on the cusp of a dramatic upturn, with government plans to invest heavily into travel and tourism infrastructure. Acting Undersecretary of Tourism Shaikh Khalid bin Hamood Al Khalifa recently revealed a dedicated policy had been developed to attract more tourists as well as additional investment into Bahrain’s tourism industry.

Capital investment in Bahrain’s travel and tourism sector reached approximately BHD196.3 million in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). This figure increased by around 13.2% in 2013 and is expected to rise 4.9% per annum over the next 10 years to BHD358.2 million in 2023.

Travel and tourism’s share of Bahrain’s total national investment will increase from 7.8% in 2013 to 8.7% in 2023, the WTTC claims.

The direct contribution of the sector to GDP in 2012 was BHD538.3 million (5% of GDP and was forecast to rise by 6.3% to BHD572 million in 2013 as a result of a surge in the economic activity generated by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transport services, as well as restaurants and additional leisure industries supported by visiting tourists.

Bahrain is keen to develop more hotels to increase its available room stock to over 12,000 rooms by 2015, after Shaikh Khalid revealed hotel room bookings surpassed the 10,000 mark in 2013, up from 9,000 rooms in 2012, an 11% rise.

“Accolades such as Manama being declared the Capital of Arab Tourism 2013 have also given the Kingdom a boost,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions, the organisers of Arabian Travel Market 2014.

“Bahrain has great potential – it’s an ideal short break destination for GCC residents, especially those from Saudi Arabia. It is also a relaxing place for Europeans looking for winter sunshine, with some of the best beaches in the Gulf. It has a major cruise terminal and of course hosts the Formula One Grand Prix,” added Walsh.

Bahrain is one of the six Middle East destinations being visited by the ATM team during its week-long roadshow which kicked off last week and also takes in Kuwait, Beirut, Muscat, Dubai and Doha.

Current and potential exhibitors visited during the roadshow will learn about new event features including the introduction of an annual theme, with 2014 shining the spotlight  on the luxury travel sector.  The seminar programme in particular will focus on this important theme, which is particularly relevant to Dubai and the rest of the Gulf region.

Around 75% of Bahrain’s inventory is dominated by hotels in the four- and five-star category. The future pipeline remains focused on the luxury sector, with hotels such as the 260-room Wyndham Grand Manama which recently opened its doors, in addition, to a 50-storey JW Marriott which is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Kingdom of Bahrain Ministry of Culture Toursim Sector is planning to have a strong presence at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM), with 200 sqm national pavilion. Major exhibitors include the Ministry of Culture as well as a host of five-star hotels including Gulf Hotel Bahrain and the Ramee Grand Hotel and Spa.

The popular ATM seminars return covering travel technology and other key industry issues such as luxury travel trends, aviation, Expo 2020, CSR and mid-scale hotels. Also returning are the visitor trails, helping visitors identify the specific travel sectors on the show floor including: shopping, career, budget, health and wellness, air and water travel.