Through my work in the tourism and hospitality sector in Bahrain over the past 20 years, I can say that this sector witnessed growth, development and prosperity, and achieved good performance rates that rose year after year.
These observations are based on indicators such as the annually increasing number of tourists, the increase of their duration of stay in the kingdom, and their spending levels.
In addition, we have seen an increasing number of tourist facilities and diversity in their services.
However, this process of prosperity undoubtedly suffered many setbacks recently due to various internal and external reasons, leading to what I would call the current “Corona Crisis”, which has impacted the tourism and travel sectors right at the heart, both in Bahrain and around the world.
Only those who know how to stand up and innovate in managing their affairs will be able to survive, especially as we have already begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel with the proven effectiveness of the corona vaccine and the start of preparations for its distribution in many countries.
In my opinion, and based on my accumulated experiences in the field of tourism, we must establish a unified vision and roadmap agreed upon by both the government and private sector and create a joint committee under the name of ‘Tourism and the Future’.
This committee should meet every three or six months to assess the conditions of the tourism sector in Bahrain, overcome challenges and capitalise on successes.
This committee should involve all stakeholders in the tourism sector in shaping the future of the sector, such as the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, and even the Health Ministry (medical tourism) and the Education Ministry (educational tourism). There should be clear rules for the basis of the work, and each member should know his duties and role in the framework of the team as a whole.
As investors in the tourism sector, we have to interact with each other in a civilised manner, not to duplicate what we see as success, and to present new ideas that distinguish us from the others in the market. We must give our shores more attention, and there are many countries that we can take as role models, including the Maldives, Seychelles, Haiti, and many Pacific Islands, where the economies of these countries depend primarily on tourism.
We must also work to localise modern technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things in the tourism sector.
More government support should also be directed to the tourism sector establishments through the Labour Fund (Tamkeen) or other support organisations to help these facilities remain in the market. A permanent mechanism must be found to attract talented individuals and artists from all over the world, and to encourage them to remain in Bahrain by granting them facilities, residence privileges, and others.
Perhaps sparking a discussion about the previous ideas and advice is crucially important at a time when expectations are growing with regard to the increasing demand for hotel tourism in Bahrain. This is particularly important after the reopening of King Fahad Causeway, especially for our brothers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE, as people in these countries are accustomed to allocating a budget for spending on tourism annually, and this budget has not been spent this year.
I believe that the most important recommendations and tourism advice that stakeholders in tourism need at this stage is to remain in the market until their last breath and confront challenges in every possible way. Despite my awareness of the severe losses incurred by the tourism sector facilities during the past months, I stress that these facilities must be patient and avoid greed while partially reopening some of their activities so that we can all recover smoothly and confidently.