Bahrain expects tourism boost from Saudi social reforms

BTEA Chief, Khaled bin Humood Al-Khalifa, said tourism accounts for more than 7 percent of Bahrain’s GDP. (AN Photo)
Updated 04 February 2018

Bahrain expects tourism boost from Saudi social reforms

MANAMA: Bahrain’s tourism authorities expect a rise in visitors from Saudi Arabia amid the social reforms underway in KSA, an official told Arab News.
Khaled bin Humood Al-Khalifa, CEO of Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), said the social changes happening in Saudi Arabia are set to positively impact tourism to Bahrain. The raft of reforms underway in KSA includes allowing women to drive from June.
“Openness will facilitate traveling and commuting for women and families and will bring both cultures closer. It will be like moving from one city to another for women,” Al-Khalifa said.
“Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are one country … Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are our target (tourism base). We are trying to facilitate entry via the King Fahd Causeway.”
Al-Khalifa said the country is working toward boosting tourism’s contribution to the national gross domestic product (GDP).
“Our main goal is to enhance the contribution of the tourism sector (to) national GDP. In 2015, tourism contributed to 3.5 percent of GDP. (As of the end of 2017), it’s 7.1 percent,” Al-Khalifa said.
“We doubled it and outgrew our initial goal, which was to reach 7 percent by the end of 2018, thanks to the solid infrastructure (in Bahrain) and the investors’ trust in the country.”
Al-Khalifa was speaking on the sidelines of the “Shop Bahrain” festival, which runs until Feb. 10 and includes promotions, entertainment events and raffle draws.
The month-long festival aims to attract more families, particularly those from Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom accounted for 7.5 million of Bahrain’s 8.7 million tourists during the first nine months of 2017. The average day spending of a Saudi visitor to Bahrain stands at 83 dinars ($220), mainly on shopping and entertainment. Bahrain is looking to increase the amount of spending and the number of people who stay the night rather than taking a day trip.
According to Al-Khalifa, 83 percent of visitors to Bahrain enter via the causeway from Saudi Arabia, with the airport handling just 17-18 percent of arrivals.
A second causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia is planned, while Bahrain has invested $1 billion in expanding its international airport to three times the capacity of the current one. “We are expecting to inaugurate the new airport in the year 2020,” Al-Khalifa said.
The BTEA has also set up six offices in countries where there are direct flights to Bahrain on national carrier Gulf Air, in addition to China where Bahrain is planning to start direct flights.
Al-Khalifa said Bahrain has also reduced the price of tourist visas to 5 dinars from 25 dinars, and says it is the first GCC country to give Russians and Chinese visitors visas upon arrival.

Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

Updated 18 October 2019

Oil prices fall but losses limited by Brexit deal hopes

  • US retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months adding to economy fears

LONDON: Oil prices fell on Thursday as industry data showed a larger than expected increase in US inventories but losses were limited after Britain and the EU announced they had reached a deal on Brexit.

Global benchmark Brent crude was down 37 cents at $59.05 in afternoon London trade while US WTI crude was also down 37 cents, at $52.99.

US crude inventories soared by 10.5 million barrels to 432.5 million barrels in the week to Oct. 11, the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report showed, ahead of official government stocks data.

Analysts had estimated US crude inventories rose by 2.8 million barrels last week.

“US sanctions imposed on Chinese shipping company COSCO are seriously denting demand for imported crude ... This has a profound impact on US crude oil inventories as reflected in last night’s API report,” said Tamas Varga, an analyst at PVM Oil Associates.

“US refinery maintenance is not helping to reverse the current trend and further builds in US crude oil inventories can be expected in the next few weeks.”

The US imposed sanctions on COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) and subsidiary COSCO Shipping Tanker (Dalian) Seaman & Ship Management for allegedly carrying Iranian oil.

Adding to concerns about the global economy — and therefore oil demand — data from the US showed retail sales in September fell for the first time in seven months. Earlier data showed a moderation in job growth and services sector activity.

Nevertheless, Brexit developments helped limit oil’s decline. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain and the EU had agreed a “great” new deal and urged lawmakers to approve it when they meet for a special session at the weekend.

Analysts have said any agreement that avoids a no-deal Brexit should boost economic growth and oil demand.

However, the Northern Irish party whose support Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement, has said that it refused to support the pact.

Hopes of a potential US-China trade deal also supported oil. The commerce ministry in Beijing said China hoped to reach a phased agreement with Washington as early as possible.

But the German government has lowered its 2020 forecast for economic growth to 1 percent from 1.5 percent, the economy ministry said. It said Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was not facing a crisis.