Maryam Toorani, Director of Marketing and Promotion, Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), talks about the Kingdom’s preparedness to welcome tourists as well as India market
The Kingdom of Bahrain is keen to grow visitors to the destination from the Indian market. It has seen a year-on-year increase in the number of Indian tourists coming to Bahrain.
With almost all gulf countries are focused on India, what is the overall strategy of Bahrain Tourism for India market?
Bahrain, the island nation, has been promoting itself as a short-haul destination from India with a focus on MICE. Bahrain is home to some of the world’s top-class hotels. These properties are equipped with enormous banquet halls that are capable of hosting intimate to very large events. The hotels here have Indian chefs who can carter to the exact taste for a perfect MICE gala evening.
As a wedding destination, Bahrain has positioned itself as dream destination. Getting married in Bahrain is like home away from home where you can have a grand traditional wedding with Indian cuisine, in an exotic location.
From a leisure point of view, Bahrain has a little of something for every traveler. Bahrain, along with its attractions of natural beauty and historical monuments, also has a list of indoor and outdoor activities to keep tourists involved the whole day. Our focus is to create a brand recall of Bahrain as the ideal MICE, leisure, and wedding destination.
How do you see the potential of Indian outbound?
India’s outbound market is considered as one of the emerging and most sought out outbound markets in the world. With the resumption of international flights, the reopening of borders, and the easing of entry rules worldwide, we see a healthy revival in outbound travel from India to Bahrain in the coming years. There is a lot of pent-up demand amongst Indian travelers to travel and explore new locations closer to home. Given the location of the country, Bahrain serves as a perfect hotspot for Indian travellers.
India’s outbound tourism market is set to surpass US$40 billion by 2026 with an impressive double-digit growth rate during the forecast period 2021–2026. The growing economy and young population of India makes this market one of the most lucrative outbound tourism markets in the world.
What was the number of Indian tourist arrivals in 2019?
Bahrain is close to India. A little over 6,000 Indian tourists visited Bahrain in 2019—mostly from the wedding and MICE sectors. Through aggressive destination marketing and the promotion of Bahrain as a tourist destination, we hope to triple the number of visitors to Bahrain this year from India.
How is the situation of air connectivity and visas?
Bahrain and India are well connected by Gulf Air that offers frequent direct flights from important cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Calicut, Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram. Additionally, Air India also offers direct flights between Bahrain and India. For tourists to Bahrain, Indian citizens are eligible for e-Visas.
You have recently appointed India rep. Are you planning to have consistent engagement with Indian travel trade? If yes, what are planned activities for B2B and B2C?
Yes, VFS Global Services has been chosen as our representative in the Indian market. VFS Global’s responsibilities in this position include establishing business ties with regional stakeholders and promoting the destination through online and offline marketing, including social media and public relations.
In order to provide tourists with an unforgettable vacation experience in Bahrain, we strive to highlight the area’s abundance of attractions and range of services. The destination will be promoted through various B2B and B2C activities like sales visits, training, multi-city roadshows, familiarization trips, joint co-ops with various travel agents, a few exciting contests, celebrity/influencer engagements and a slew of other promotional activities in order to maintain a strong growth trajectory in the upcoming months.
Bollywood is one of the channels to draw Indian tourists. You were earlier planned to work with Bollywood. What is the plan now?
As a Tourism Board, we are interested to investigate the role that film tourism plays in promoting a place since we think it is a fascinating niche to work with. We aim to interact and connect with significant people from the major production companies in Bollywood as well as Tollywood in India in the upcoming months.
Any new tourism infrastructure project in the pipeline?
The new convention centre in Bahrain will be the biggest exhibition and convention centre in the Middle East. The massive and brilliant structure is scheduled to open its doors to the public in October 2022. The building will be a cutting-edge venue that can host any event, including huge conventions, exhibits, and even musical performances.
With cutting-edge amenities, the exhibition hall will be more than 95,000 square feet, ensuring the success of any event held here. The centre will include 10 halls with seats for 400–4000 people each. In addition, there are 95 meeting rooms, 10 exposition halls, a 250-seat restaurant, 25 cafes, 3 Majlis, and 8 changing rooms in the centre.
Finally, how prepared you are to cater to the India Market?
Bahrain has finished its opening process and is prepared to receive Indian travellers. Both the ability to enter the country and the ability to hold significant gatherings and festivities are unrestricted. Entry into Bahrain is not subject to a vaccination requirement. No longer are visitors to the Kingdom obliged to undergo quarantine or an on-arrival PCR test.