The Cruise Arabia alliance recently formed between the tourism authorities of Oman, Abu Dhabi and Dubai is a great initiative that will help grow the Gulfs cruise market. Cruising is a $100bn global industry and passenger numbers are growing at a rate of about 8.5 per cent a year.
Although the UAE and Oman, and also Bahrain, already feature on cruise line itineraries, the alliance will help create better options for travellers and facilitate collaboration over land-based activities and marketing campaigns. Ultimately, increasing the number of cruise passengers visiting the region will help governments meet their tourism targets.
But the joint initiative that will do the most to transform the travel markets in the region is the planned GCC railway. National rail schemes are now moving forward in the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia, which when completed will connect to form a regional railway. Being able to travel around the GCC by train will change the way people holiday in the region. It means when Dubais tourism market is booming other cities will also benefit. The railway will also encourage more intra-regional travel by residents.
The Cruise Arabia alliance will give tourism authorities experience in promoting and thinking of the region as one destination rather than competing markets, so that by the time the GCC railway is up and running, it will come naturally.