Middle East Cruise News

Saudi Arabia sees collaboration as key to growing Red Sea as cruise destination

Saudi Arabia is looking to form alliances with other Red Sea cruise destinations to enhance the region’s appeal for cruise lines, Cruise Saudi’s Chief Strategy Officer Ghassan Khan told delegates at Seatrade Cruise Global.

Khan said Saudi Arabia seeks to be “complementary to what cruising has to offer” and work with other cruise destinations on the Red Sea to become a world-class cruise destination in its own right.

The region’s potential is huge, he said, during an interview with Seatrade’s Mary Bond in the Cruising Innovations Theatre during the event.

ghassan khan

mary beard and ghassan khan

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“We need alliances with neighbouring countries – Egypt, Jordan and others who are open to cruise going forward,” he said.

“When the southern parts of the Red Sea open up, we’ll be able to showcase the Saudi mountains, the unexplored areas of Sudan, Yeman, Oman and more. And on the Gulf coast connecting with the country’s represented by Cruise Arabia,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s entry to the cruise industry as a new destination in the Middle East has already had a major impact on the wider region’s appeal for cruise lines.

Prior to its opening to cruise lines, ships sailing between the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf faced long stretches of sea days due to a lack of available ports of call.

Now, Saudi Arabia has three ports that are cruise ready: Jeddah and Yanbu in the Red Sea and Dammam on the Gulf coast.

“Every port development we do will be able to receive the biggest class of cruise ship,” said Khan.

msc bellissima abudhabi

msc bellissima is the first ship to homeport in jeddah, saudi arabia

In 2021, Silversea, Scenic and MSC Cruises operated itineraries from Jeddah, calling in Yanbu and other Red Sea destinations. Now, Cruise Saudi, the government agency charged with growing the country’s cruise potential, is looking to diversity and improve its appeal.

“It’s clear to us what we need to do to move forward,” said Khan. “Now it’s about improving guest experience at the terminal, streamlining the process for immigration and customs.”

unesco world heritage site of alula saudi arabia

al ula, saudi arabia

“We need to listen to what the cruise lines want: diversify our products, improve the quality,” he added. “We want to give the cruise lines the best possible authentic experience with support in marketing incentives, port fees and more.”

Khan said the focus of Cruise Saudi going forward will be on diversifying its cruise product in terms of shore excursions.

“Next year we will have more tailored products and we want hundreds, if not thousands, of excursion programs,” he said.

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