Bahrain ranked first in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) for attracting the highest tourism capital investment in 2020, according to the fDi Intelligence Tourism Investment Report 2021.
Last year, major investments from UAE-based property developers helped Bahrain’s tourism sector remain buoyant and created jobs during the worst ever period for the global tourism industry.
Bahrain secured $492 million of tourism capital investment in 2020, mainly made up of investments from global property developer Emaar Properties and real estate developer Eagle Hills, despite the overall regional decline in capital investment in 2020.
Capital investment into MEA last year decreased 82 percent from 2019, dropping to $1.6 billion. The number of tourism jobs created in the region also experienced a similar decline, decreasing from approximately 17,400 in 2019 to 2,800 in 2020. Despite the pandemic, Bahrain ranked first in MENA for the number of tourism jobs created in 2020 and second for the number of tourism FDI projects.
Prior to COVID-19, Bahrain was attracting around a million visitors a month on average and the tourism sector contributed around 7 percent to GDP. As the first economy in the GCC to diversify away from oil, the Kingdom has positioned its tourism offering to cater for a broader set of visitors through new attractions, hotels, F&B, and retail.
During the pandemic, the country continued developing its strategy to transform its tourism sector, allocating more than $10 billion to tourism infrastructure projects, including the $1.1 billion modernisation of its international airport. More recently, Edamah, the real estate arm of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund, Mumtalakat, also announced several new upscale property projects in the country.
Accor, a hospitality group with over 400 hotels, Minor Hotels, which has a portfolio of 527 hotels and resorts, and Hilton DoubleTree unveiled plans to launch new properties in the Kingdom. Bahrain is now home to global hotel brands including Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Rotana, Intercontinental, Wyndham and Sofitel.
Anticipating a significant rebound in tourism numbers, Bahrain is growing its portfolio of five-star hotels and is set to have around 9,300 rooms by the end of 2022. Bahrain is also anticipating a return in demand and growth for beachfront affordable brands.
Mahmood Al Aradi, chief investment officer at Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, said: “Despite the obvious challenges, we have continued to progress with our ambitious tourism infrastructure and real estate plans, which have attracted some of the world’s most renowned hotel brands and the Gulf’s largest property development groups, including Emaar.
“As well as being one of the region’s top holiday destinations, Bahrain is widely regarded as the best place to live and work in the GCC. Locals and expats are well-integrated both socially and professionally, which is unusual in the region. As part of the Kingdom’s infrastructure transformation initiative, we have a significant pipeline of projects in various sectors including industrial, hospitality, real estate and retail.
“And as the pandemic eases and restrictions lift, there will be a greater opportunity for regional connectivity and cooperation. We hope to welcome even more foreign hospitality groups looking to capitalize on Bahrain’s position as an outwardly-facing, expanding tourism hotspot.”