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Support needed for developing Middle East cruise market

( DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Growth in the Middle East’s fledgling cruise industry, which is expected to generate revenues of US$100 million this year, is dependent on increased levels of regional participation, according to Arabian Travel Market 2009 seminar leader, Costa Cruises – the first cruise operator to establish a base in the Arabian Gulf.

Currently, the majority of tourists taking part in Middle East cruises come from traditional western markets and represent the ‘fly and cruise’ demographic.

However, with the Middle East having one of the largest disposable income per capita figures globally, Dario Rustico, Costa Cruises’ director, sales and marketing of Pacific Asia Operations, believes that the key to taking an increased share of 2009’s predicted US$24.9 billion global cruise market is by tourism bodes and travel companies promoting cruise holidays to intra-regional travelers.

“The main aspect of managing cruise operations out of Dubai is that the local market still has very low awareness about a cruise holiday and cannot generate the numbers needed to support, and significantly contribute towards, the success these programs,” said Rustico, who will be one of more than 25 speakers at the 16-session seminar program.

“This means the greatest majority of passengers fly to Dubai from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, pressuring us to generate an entire ‘fly and cruise’ program.”

The ‘fly and cruise’ market has nevertheless served Costa Cruises well in its three-year Dubai tenure, however, the company feels its growth will be more challenging in the long run without regional sign-up, especially as other companies look to expand into the relatively untapped Middle Eastern market.

And with figures for total passengers carried expected to rise 2.4 percent in 2009 to 16 million globally, as more customers take advantage of special offers, the market is currently crying out for self-promotion.

“We have seen a 50 percent growth in three years,” continued Rustico, “and we have the Costa Luminosa set to deploy in Dubai this winter with the Costa Deliziosa and Costa Pacifica vessels following after. However, to sustain this we cannot miss any opportunity to organize promotional seminars, lunches, and presentations every time a ship is docked in Dubai. We are actively going out into the market to increase awareness and make sure all information and tools needed to start selling cruises are available. However, despite encouraging results, more needs to be done by tourism bodies and travel agents to build awareness.”

Dozens of cruise companies call at the dedicated cruise terminal in Port Rashid, Dubai, however, Costa Cruises is currently the only organization to set up a base in the emirate and operate a dedicated Middle East itinerary.

The potential of the Middle East industry has not been lost on other major operators, with a number declaring their intentions to set up base in Dubai. Recently, industry stalwart Royal Caribbean, announced that its 2,112-passenger Brilliance of the Seas luxury vessel will be deployed into the emirate in 2010. Royal Caribbean cruises will offer seven night cruises in Dubai, running from January up until April of the same year.

And the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Government of Dubai – which runs the Dubai Cruise Terminal - recently announced that it is expecting 101 ships with 316,043 passengers this year – up from 82 vessels and 182,030 passengers last year.

Mark Walsh, group exhibition director, Reed Travel Exhibitions - which organizes Arabian Travel Market - said the inclusion of Costa Cruises in the show’s extensive and varied seminar program, in conjunction with positive projected growth in the sector, demonstrated the flexibility of the Middle East’s travel and tourism industry.

“We all know that exploring new avenues for development is especially important in the current financial climate,” he said. “Costa Cruises’ point of view will be valuable to many regionally-based travel agents, and we look forward to a full and lively discussion around this topic.”

The online portal for Arabian Travel Market, the Middle East’s premier travel and tourism event, which takes place from May 5-8, 2009 at the Dubai International Convention&Exhibition Centre, can be found at Signing up early will allow visitors to take advantage of extensive e-networking tools that will allow them to link up with the most relevant industry players to their business.

Arabian Travel Market is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, and under the auspices of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Government of Dubai.

Visitor registration for Arabian Travel Market 2009 can be done through the show’s dedicated website on

For further information: Sam Dulka, MCS/Action, Dubai, UAE; Tel: + 971 4 390 2960; Fax: +9714 390 8161; Email: href=""> or visit the show online at:

About Arabian Travel Market:

Arabian Travel Market was launched in 1994, and the 2008 event – which marked the show’s 15th anniversary – opened with its largest ever exhibitor base of 2,229 participants from 70 countries.

In addition, floorspace bookings from international representatives in Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Africa had grown by 10 percent, with Middle East companies increasing their allocation by five percent.

The 2008 show also boasted close to 90 new-to-market exhibitors, as well as increased space uptake from over 62 national tourist bodies with products and services representing 70 countries, including show debutants Bangladesh, The Philippines, Djibouti, Georgia, Senegal, and Nepal.

The event’s signature awards scheme, the New Frontiers Awards, will be staged for the fourth time in 2009. Presented to a destination that has made a remarkable recovery and positive contribution to tourism development in the face of the overwhelming adversity, the award, which is chosen by a panel of judges consisting of regional and international industry professionals, is one of the show’s highlights.

Arabian Travel Market is part of the Reed Travel Exhibitions’ portfolio, which includes 15 of the world’s leading travel industry events. For more information visit

The Address Hotel&Resorts - which incorporates four properties: The Address, Downtown Burj Dubai; The Address, Dubai Mall; The Address, Dubai Marina and The Palace, The Old Town - is the official accommodation provider for Arabian Travel Market 2009’s Hosted Buyers program and attending international press.

Arabian Travel Market is part of the Reed Travel Exhibitions’ portfolio, which includes 15 of the world’s leading travel industry events. For more information visit

Dina Fouad Phone: 00971507810654 Email:

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