Transport links to be improved

Bahrain aims to reduce dependence on Saudi visitors.

Manama // Bahrain is investing in a series of major transport projects as part of its tourism industry revamp. The Gulf state intends to expand its international airport, while a US$3 billion (Dh11.01bn), 40km two-lane road bridge called the Friendship Causeway is planned to link it with Qatar. Analysts at the global property consultancy Cushman and Wakefield said that to decrease its dependence on the Saudi tourism market, Bahrain was investing heavily in improved transport links to encourage visitors from other areas of the GCC, and further afield.

Bahrain opened a new port last year and has ambitions to become a home berth for some smaller cruise ships. Cruise liners that sail from Dubai, operated by companies including Royal Caribbean and Costa Cruises, bring thousands of tourists a week to the island during the cruising season. But its air transport industry has not fared so well. "Since the early 2000s, Bahrain has lost ground to other Gulf states in terms of being a regional transport hub," according to a recent report by Euromonitor.

"Its national carrier [Gulf Air] is heavily loss-making and is in the process of being restructured." The Gulf state is also putting efforts into developing the highly lucrative exhibitions and meetings market. Bahrain last year introduced a ban on one and two-star hotels selling alcohol. There is an continuing debate in parliament on whether there should be a total ban of alcohol in the state, a move which analysts say would have a negative impact on tourism.