The Dubai cruise tourism sector during the 2016/17 cruise season saw twice as many passengers board cruise ships in Dubai compared to the 2013/14 season.
More than 625,000 people cruised from Dubai in the previous season, compared to 320,000 just three years ago. The vast majority of them cruised roundtrip from Dubai Cruise Terminal on itineraries within the Arabian Gulf.
If Dubai cruise tourism officials can maintain such growth, then the ambitious goal of more than a million cruise tourists coming to the city by 2020 will be easily achieved.
The development of new infrastructure was key to the growth in the cruise tourism market. Cruise Terminal 3, officially the Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal, was opened in 2014 and remains the largest single cruise terminal in the world.
It can handle 18,000 passengers a day and precipitated a 68 percent increase in cruise ship calls to Dubai from 93 in the 2013/14 cruise season to 156 in 2016/17 (the Middle East’s cruise season runs from November to March each year).
During the 2018/19 cruise season, in which two of the homeporting cruise lines are significantly expanding their capacity with larger, newer cruise ships, officials expect more than 700,000 cruise tourists to visit Dubai.
The Dubai Cruise Terminal, within Port Rashid, is managed by DP World and is where all but one of the Middle East cruise ships homeport for their roundtrip Arabian Gulf cruises.
“DP World is proud to support and contribute to Dubai’s vision to become the world’s leading cruise tourism hub,” says Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World.
“With a goal to attract 20 million tourists a year by 2020, of which at least one million are expected to be cruise tourists, we are committed to providing facilities that are the best in the world and create a truly luxurious cruise experience catering to the tastes and sophistication of visitors,” he added.
Dubai’s cruise tourism market has grown rapidly over the past four seasons as the city is becoming a choice destination for cruise enthusiasts from Europe and the US, he added. “Our plans for further boosting the sector will certainly help achieve more growth in the coming years.”
Mohammed Abdul Aziz Al Al Mannaei, CEO of P&O Marinas, and Executive Director of Port Rashid, added that redevelopment of existing facilities would enhance the passengers’ experience further at Dubai Cruise Terminal.
“We’re expanding our facilities to accommodate more ships by adding new berths while developing our existing two-kilometre long berths in line with the demand from cruise operators,” he said.
“We’re also working on connecting our existing terminals with closed corridors equipped with the best in technology to maximise capacity and provide ease of access for passengers across the port. We also work in synergy with our government partners to ensure delivery of high-standard services and facilities for these cruise passengers.”
Cruise line executives have previously cautioned, however, that other destination ports in the region need to keep up with the expansion being undertaken by Dubai.
“There’s no point having 7 cruise ships homeporting in Dubai if there isn’t capacity at the cruise ports they want to visit in the region,” says Steven Young, executive director of operations for Carnival’s P&O and Cunard lines.