Bahrain expects second Saudi-Bahrain causeway to boost tourism

Updated 27 February 2017
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Bahrain expects second Saudi-Bahrain causeway to boost tourism

MANAMA: The proposed second causeway linking Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is likely to boost Bahrain’s tourism industry, Khalid Al-Rumaihi, CEO of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), told Arab News on the sidelines of the sixth Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Financial Forum.
Bahrain, with a population of 1.3 million, had 12.2 million visitors last year, up from 11.6 million the year before. An estimated 8 million came to Bahrain through Saudi borders.
“The causeway is a massive source of tourism, and it’s something we’d like to capture,” Al-Rumaihi said.
The EDB tracks the travel habits of those visitors, monitoring their length of stay. Statistics show that about 10 percent spend at least two nights in Bahrain.
“There’s huge potential to outgrow that. We’d like to see that grow from 10 to 15 or maybe 20 percent,” Al-Rumaihi said.
The second 87-km causeway will be parallel to King Fahd Causeway, and is set to comprise a GCC rail network as well.
Having rail connections across Jeddah and Riyadh is also expected to allow even more visitors from the western and central provinces to have better land access to Bahrain.
Bahrain is focused on being an attractive destination for tourists from countries in the region who wish to come on short vacations and spend less money than they would if they travelled outside the region.
Rather than investing more on reaching out to tourists from other regions such as Europe, Al-Rumaihi said his country is more interested in expanding on the 12.2 million that come from the GCC.
He sees potential to develop medical tourism and get patients from neighboring Saudi Arabia, as well as sports tourism. Bahrain hosts the Formula 1, which attracts a large number of car-racing fans.
According to the EDB, Bahrain allows around 100 nationalities the flexibility of getting an e-visa or a visa upon arrival at the airport.


Another surprise fall in UK inflation muddies Bank of England rates message

Updated 3 min 45 sec ago
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Another surprise fall in UK inflation muddies Bank of England rates message

LONDON: British inflation fell unexpectedly in April, according to figures on Wednesday that added to doubts about when the Bank of England will raise interest rates again and pushed sterling to its lowest level against the dollar this year.
Consumer price inflation cooled to 2.4 percent last month, its weakest increase since March 2017, and down from 2.5 percent this March.
The figure was below economists’ average expectation in a Reuters poll for it to hold steady at 2.5 percent and represented the second surprise fall in a row after a drop in March’s figures. “It’s a conundrum for the Bank of England which has struggled to read the direction of price changes recently,” Ed Monk, associate director for personal investing at fund manager Fidelity International, said.
“With inflation trending lower, it only makes it harder for the Bank of England to raise rates.” Investors were now pricing in a one-in-three chance of a BoE rate hike in August — the next time it updates its forecasts on the economy — down from 50/50 before Tuesday’s data.
High inflation, caused by the pound’s drop after the 2016 Brexit vote, squeezed British consumers through last year, and although it has receded from its December peak of 3.1 percent, the BoE is keeping a close eye on price pressures.
PIPELINE PRESSURE
Wednesday’s data pointed to some signs of inflation pressure still in the pipeline. Prices of goods leaving British factories increased at a faster rate than expected last month. And while consumer price inflation cooled again, the timing of the Easter holidays and their impact on air fare prices was a big contributor.
On Tuesday Bank of England Governor Mark Carney cited a new sugar tax on soft drinks, as well as higher utility bills and petrol prices, as reasons why inflation “probably tips up a bit” in the coming months before resuming a decline. The ONS said soft drink prices increased sharply over the last couple of months but the overall impact on inflation was minimal.
The latest data on prices in British factories, which eventually feed through onto the high street, were stronger than anticipated. Manufacturers increased the prices they charged by 2.7 percent year-on-year, matching March’s increase. Economists had expected a fall to 2.3 percent. Among manufacturers, the cost of raw materials — many of them imported such as oil — was 5.3 percent higher than in April 2017, up sharply from an increase of 4.4 percent in March and suggesting a long run of weakening price growth has ended.
A surprise drop in consumer price inflation in March, along weak economic growth figures for early 2018, had called into question whether the BoE would raise interest rates more than once before the end of the year.
Earlier this month it refrained from an interest rate hike that had at one point been widely expected. The BoE’s latest forecasts show inflation dropping to 2.1 percent in a year’s time, and returning to its 2.0 percent target a year later — but only if interest rates rise by 25 basis points about three times over three years.
The latest Reuters poll of economists suggests the BoE is most likely to raise interest rates at its August meeting.