Saudi Arabia is still targeting 1-million cruise passengers by 2028 despite the pandemic, with Cruise Saudi managing director Fawaz Farooqui confident the country will become a regional hub in the coming years.
The managing director of Cruise Saudi says the Kingdom is aggressively expanding its cruise infrastructure, partnerships and coordination, destination development and human capital development.
During a session at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh earlier this month, Farooqui said they were still targeting a million passengers before the end of the decade, despite the impact the pandemic has had on the industry.
At that same forum, he said five cruise ports will operate in Saudi Arabia by 2025. At the World Travel Market in London this week, he expanded on Cruise Saudi’s plans, explaining that the country’s cruise market will be developed across four verticals.
“We are working along four verticals to develop a world-class cruise offering,” Farooqui said. “These cover port infrastructure with Dammam now under development and on target to be ready by the end of this month in advance of the winter season; partnerships and coordination; destination development and human capital development.”
In terms of partnerships, Farooqui highlighted Cruise Saudi’s recent joining of CLIA and World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) in October, and Med Cruise at the beginning of November.
Such partnerships provide Cruise Saudi with the opportunity to not only market Saudi Arabia as a cruise destination, but also network with other cruise destinations and cruise lines to ensure that Saudi Arabia’s cruise sector provides a global standard.
“Saudi has so much to offer that the world has simply not seen before and we are working with partners on the ground to develop seamless itineraries,” he told Seatrade.
“One of our goals is to play our part in allowing people to explore Saudi in comfort, with all aspects taken care of,” he added.
“Once all parts are tied together flawlessly, which is what the cruise customer expect, they will have an introduction to Saudi which we know will keep them coming back to discover more,” said Farooqui.
During the same session at the World Travel Market in London, Farooqui also confirmed that Dammam port is being upgraded to cater to cruise passengers, with new cruise infrastructure on track for completion before the begining of the 2021/22 cruise season.
During the current cruise season, MSC Virtuosa will call in Dammam on her cruises in the Arabian Gulf out of Dubai.