The first dedicated Cruise Abu Dhabi international promotion set off under full sail at the Seatrade Med Conference and Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain affirming the emirate's commitment to regional cruise development.
A seven strong Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, TCA Abu Dhabi, delegation - including Abu Dhabi Ports Company, ADPC, and a number of private sector shore excursion providers and ship handling agents - is pressing the case for the emirate's inclusion as an alternative, and preferred, winter cruise destination.
Setting the tone for the week came the unveiling of design details, via a full scale model, of the planned permanent Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal announced by ADPC, slated to become the next big Arabian Gulf cruise tourism landmark.
"Initial interest shown in the scale model of the new terminal bodes well for our expanding cruise industry, and if our combined efforts encourage more cruise operators to identify potential in Abu Dhabi as a destination, this terminal building will be a significant addition to our credentials," said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, TCA Abu Dhabi.
The concept is the result of an international design competition and input from a range of industry stakeholders and is set to open in 2016, which according to Jasem Zaiton, Cruise Manager for tour operator dnata Gulf Ventures, could lead to a multiple-hub Cruise Arabia proposition becoming the norm.
"The new terminal has the potential to transform our industry and create an environment where a cruise line operating two ships in the region could comfortably homeport at two different destinations. This would allow us to create bespoke series of shore excursions tailored specifically to different passenger interest, which is a very exciting development," he explained.
The prospect of Abu Dhabi's new facility being on stream for the 2016/17 season is significant, according to Helen Beck, Regional Director, International Representatives, EMEA, Royal Caribbean International, the world's largest cruise line operator, "We plan our itineraries well in advance, and knowing that this terminal is being designed to meet our requirements, and at a standard expected by our passengers, is an influencing factor when we decide where to call,'' she said.
For George Varghese, General Manager of Rais Hassan Saadi and Co, shipping agents for Costa Cruises and a number of other lines that make regular ports of call in the U.A.E., the new terminal brings increased business potential.
"A state-of-the-art terminal makes our job of encouraging cruise lines to consider Abu Dhabi as a port a great deal easier. We expect the new Cruise Abu Dhabi Terminal will be of great interest, and allows us to tailor our approach according to the cruise line's individual requirements," he explained.