Abu Dhabi to host 2016 Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum

SMECF launch
Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. 25 April, 2016:  Abu Dhabi is set to host the world’s leading cruise line executives when they meet in the emirate for the return of the annual Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum this December.

The forum is being organised and managed by Seatrade, planners of cruise industry events worldwide, and brought to the emirate by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), the body responsible for the development and promotion of the cruise tourism sector.

It is anticipated that the world’s leading cruise lines, including those which currently operate regional Arabian Gulf cruises such as Celebrity Cruises, MSC, Costa, AIDA, TUI , Cunard , Thomson Cruises and Royal Caribbean will gather at the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, which takes place in the Desert Island Conference Centre, adjacent to Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara on Sir Bani Yas Island from 12-15th December 2016.

“Abu Dhabi is making waves in the global cruise tourism sector and our hosting of the region’s leading cruise development forum reflects the giant strides we have taken in recent years to develop the emirate’s cruise tourism appeal. We are immensely proud of the significant progress we have made in the three years since our last hosting of the event. Abu Dhabi now boasts a permanent cruise terminal which serves as a home porting venue for cruise lines, and has added the region’s first beach stopover on Arabian Gulf cruise itineraries,” said Saeed Al Dhaheri, Cruise Sector and City Tour Development Manager at TCA Abu Dhabi.

“We will be working hand-in-hand with a number of strategic and supporting cruise sector partners to showcase Abu Dhabi to cruise industry decision-makers, and will work closely with Seatrade to ensure we attract a high calibre of delegates who share our ambitions and can identify the opportunities to fulfil the region’s cruise tourism potential,” added Al Dhaheri.

The Forum follows the emirate’s first hosting of the Middle East Cruise Forum in 2013 which identified and addressed crucial topics to enable cruising in the Arabia Gulf to develop and grow.

“We are delighted to be returning to Abu Dhabi and being able to showcase this magnificent emirate to the international cruise line executives that will fly in for the Forum. This is the 7th consecutive cruise forum which once again will show the commitment to promoting the region as an exciting cruise destination with more diverse shore excursions and itineraries planned for 2016 and onwards,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade, organisers of the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum.

“The Forum will continue the conversation of key issues impacting the development of the Arabian Gulf’s cruise industry… a discussion debated between cruise line executives and regional governments and industry in a common goal to help the region grow its share of the global cruise marketplace.”

The two-day summit at the beachside Desert Islands Conference Centre brings together ministers, ports and immigrations officials with industry stakeholders, tourism authorities, global tour operators and other industries involved in the cruise tourism sector to discuss, debate and identify opportunities to stimulate the development of cruising in Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Gulf.

Strategic delivery partners for the event include Etihad Airways, the UAE’s national airline and Abu Dhabi Ports, Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal operator and developer of the Sir Bani Yas Island beach destination.

Peter Baumgartner, Chief Commercial Officer for Etihad Airways, said: “Abu Dhabi is growing as an important cruise destination with more and more ships looking to home port in the emirate. Etihad Airways and Hala Abu Dhabi have been keen supporters of the new cruise terminal at Zayed Port and we’re playing a significant role flying thousands of visitors into Abu Dhabi to start their journey around the Arabian Gulf. While in addition, our destination management company, Hala Abu Dhabi, has also been assisting with ground arrangements and shore excursions for those incoming guests.

“I’m delighted that Seatrade is coming to Abu Dhabi as it’s a vital date in the calendar as we look to promote the growing cruise opportunity locally and across the Middle East. It will provide a global platform to showcase the fantastic introduction of Sir Bani Yas Island to the list of new stops available for next year.”

There has been a sixfold increase in Abu Dhabi’s cruise tourism arrivals since cruise operations began in 2006, with the 2015-16 season welcoming 228,000 passengers from 113 calls, as well as the return of home porting by MSC Cruises to the new Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal at Zayed Port.

“We are eagerly waiting for this year’s Forum to share our success story during the just concluded cruise season and learn from the similar experiences across the globe. The unprecedented passenger traffic and highly efficient operations at Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, which already received praise from tourists and cruise operators, marked a grand beginning of a major landmark for cruise tourism in the Arabian Gulf,” said Noura Al Dhaheri, Cruise Terminal Manager at Abu Dhabi Ports.

“The fact that the passenger arrivals and vessel calls greatly exceeded our projections proves Abu Dhabi’s sought-after status as a cruise destination.  This demonstrates the distinctiveness of our business model boasting modern infrastructure combined with well-organised operations,” she added.

The Forum’s hosting also coincides with two significant milestones in Abu Dhabi’s 2016-17 cruise season, which is expected to deliver 250,000 passengers from 151 calls.

Celebrity Constellation makes the first of six departures from her Abu Dhabi winter home port, while Abu Dhabi’s second home porting vessel, MSC Fantasia, is expected to make her debut port-of-call at Sir Bani Yas Island on 5th December, with a second to coincide with the Forum’s opening.

Sir Bani Yas Island is home to the Arabian Gulf’s only dedicated cruise beach stopover, with passengers enjoying access to a fully-equipped beach and an array of natural land and sea-based excursions on the island. Plans for a permanent, dedicated cruise beach are in development and when completed, the facility will be able to accommodate more than 3500 passengers on a day trip.

Besides Abu Dhabi, the Forum has previously been hosted in Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Dubai – who together with Abu Dhabi make up the Cruise Arabia alliance of regional Gulf cruise destinations – and its return to Abu Dhabi reflects the event’s regional significance.

The full conference programme, details of speakers and exhibitor information will be revealed on the event website www.seatradecruiseevents.com/middle-east.


About Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority:

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) conserves and promotes the heritage and culture of Abu Dhabi emirate and leverages them in the development of a world-class, sustainable destination of distinction which enriches the lives of visitors and residents alike. The authority manages the emirate’s tourism sector and markets the destination internationally through a wide range of activities aimed at attracting visitors and investment. Its policies, plans and programmes relate to the preservation of heritage and culture, including protecting archaeological and historical sites and to developing museums, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. TCA Abu Dhabi supports intellectual and artistic activities and cultural events to nurture a rich cultural environment and honour the emirate’s heritage. A key authority role is to create synergy in the destination’s development through close co-ordination with its wide-ranging stakeholder base.