Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Tourism is booming in Bahrain. Yes, the Booming Bahrain (BB). This industry is becoming one of the leading sectors to boost the country’s economic development. Both government and private sector have been enjoying benefits of this smokeless industry, such as bringing in foreign exchange, increasing trade, creating employment and improving the country’s visibility abroad.

Choosing tourism as the main sector is based on the growing trend (in the region) to diversify economy. Bahrain just simply copied UAE, which one step forward success in managing tourism. Those GCC countries realize its need to reduce high dependency on oil sector and moreover planned to diversify its economy. They believe that one day, they can not depend on oil anymore and therefore, since now they are preparing to find other alternatives: TOURISM.

And, as a trend of international travel, tourism is increasing in almost every part of the world. Tourism is becoming one of the most promising sectors to improve economy. With this in mind, the Bahrain government has been seeking to tap into the Kingdom’s tourism potential as a key pillar of its diversification policy.

The country has been witnessing a rapid increase in the number of visitors in the past few years. Arrivals by foreign nationals reached a record of 7.5 million in 2006, up from about 6.6 million in 2005 and 3.33 million in 2000. The government has set an ambitious target to double tourism revenues and increase the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP to 10% by 2014. From hospitality subsector only, tourism has given $1.5 billion to Bahrain economy and investment. The Kingdom’s hospitality sector is poised to enjoy healthy growth rates, where hoteliers in other parts of the world can only dream about.

Bahrain is also keen to establish the country as a tourism hub in the region. This keenness is endorsed by the fact that private sector initiatives, with over $10 billion in tourism projects in the pipeline, will help to offer enough rooms at any given time, especially during global events like Formula One Grand Prix.

And the F1 Grand Prix itself, has been increasing visitor numbers from outside the region, particularly Europe and the US. The event attracts nearly 100.000 visitors in three days and contributes $548 million to the Kingdom’s economy in 2008.

In the future, 50 high profile projects at value $22 billion are underway such as the City Centre, Marina West, Durrat Al Bahrain, Al Jazair Beach, Bahrain Bay, Diyar Al Muharraq and scores of new international chain luxury hotels, lead the kingdom to be one of the most favourite business and leisure destinations in the Middle East.

Data from Tourism Affair of Ministry of Information showed eighteen international hotels are under construction that will support Bahrain tourism with additional 4,500 starred rooms. These rooms will need approximately 3,600 employees, working directly for the hotel. And, by its multiplier effect, the new hotels will absorbs roughly 10,000 indirect workers from various sectors. Can you imagine that..!

What about Indonesia? As I explained earlier, while Bahrain is now enjoying the growth, other parts of the world like Bali, Batam, Bunaken and Lombok can only dream about. Again, it’s gloomy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Market Segments for Bahrain Hotel Industry

Today, the market for travel and leisure activities is growing throughout the GCC countries. Business travellers are also predicted to grow significantly in the next coming years.

Saudis account for the vast majority of visitors to Bahrain, who are attracted to the country largely because of its traditionally liberal attitudes to entertainment, leisure and recreation attraction. More than three-quarters of visitors to Bahrain enter via the King Fahd Causeway from Saudi Arabia. However, competition from Dubai for high-spending European visitors is intense. In 2006, Bahrain had 7.5 million visitors, with average tourist stays only two nights, reflecting the prevalence of weekend visits.

Based on my study, below are the major segments of tourism and travel market in Bahrain. I think, the characteristic will be applicable for other GCC countries. The segment market for tourism and travel industry is generally divided into four categories, business travellers, leisure travellers, F1 season and weekend excursionist.

Business travellers are divided into two sub-segments. They are individual business travellers and grouped business travellers. Individual business normally consists of people who travel from GCC countries to visit Bahrain for business purposes, and some percentage of European businessmen who have regular meeting with clients. Mostly they are executives or top management in the company who travel frequently to Bahrain. Some of them are owners of small to medium scale enterprises whom due to expansion of the company, they need to travel aboard.

Grouped business travellers have large proportion to fill up the market share in Bahrain MICE industry. Under “corporate account”, most hotels in Bahrain put a special attention to attract this market. Generally, corporate account is divided in a 10 percent from government and 90 percent from private companies. A 50 percent of private sector is supplied from companies in Bahrain, 30 percent from Saudi Arabia, and the rest is distributed from other GCC countries. This segment is used to using room and banquet services.

In addition, Bahrain is a host for international business events such as exhibition, conference and expo. Bahrain hosts 20 to 25 local and world’s scale events every year, which attracts a huge number of both individual and group business travellers. A 20 percent of the current market segment of Novotel Al Dana Resort is derived from people who attend those events. Although most of them do not spend expenses for banquet service, but their expenditure in room and F&B is considerable valuable contribution for the total sales.

Leisure travellers are classified into two sub-segments; individual leisure and family. Individual leisure travellers are mainly young people from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE. They travel purely for vacation and wish to enjoy holiday packages offered by travel agencies or visit family, shop and relax in the less restricted social environment, such as alcohol, cinema and even illegal prostitution.

Bahrain has been also famous as a family oriented destination. The family segment usually contains of the parent and two children or more. This segment usually visits Bahrain during school holidays and especially summer time which normally happens in July to August, yearly. Some families also tend to spend their vacation during weekends and other public holidays such as Christmas, Ied Fitr, New Year, and Valentine.

Weekend Excursionists are one of potential customers for most hotels in the kingdom. They are mostly categorized into three major groups, young couple or young people, family and expatriates. They do not use the room but spend noteworthy expenses in F&B service, leisure and recreation facilities.

Bahrain has maintained a pro-Western stance since independent. There are roughly 8,500 British expatriates in Bahrain, employed mainly in finance, construction and the government. Other European and American nationals have contributed significant numbers of expatriates living in Bahrain, making themselves as potential market for hotel and leisure sector.

F1 season is one of the greatest events that everyone expects in Bahrain. With over $540 million entering the economy during the Grand Prix, Bahrain has emerged as a focal point in the marriage of sport and business. The F1 Grand Prix has a huge impact to the room sales of all hotels and lodging properties in Bahrain. Since the last four years, Hotels in the kingdom have enjoyed double price of its room rates solely for F1 teams such as Renault, Ferrari, BMW Sauber and the F1 spectators not only from GCC countries but also countries around the world.

According to FIA Formula One World Calendar, Bahrain will continue hosting the prestigious event till 2016. This is good for the region and hotel industry in term of entertainment, business and tourism. The revenue for hotels during the F1 season is forecasted to double within 3 coming years.

On the final note, as an hotelier who is currently working in Bahrain and experienced working with Bali Tourism Board, I am just jealous to know Bahrain tourism is booming with tourist arrival reaches more than 8 millions in 2005. All the market segments are drastically increase year by year and are predicted to grow progressively in the next 5 coming years. While Indonesia, with more resources and lots of beautiful places of interests can only attract 5 millions international visits. It's gloomy...

Monday, July 7, 2008

my little cute model

Let me introduce my new little model. Her name is Isabelle from Austria. I met her and her mom on the Novotel's beach one day couple weeks ago. They were on vacation at our hotel. I saw her was playing alone on the beach and I was interested to shoot her as my model for our weekend ad. The idea was to depict a family who is enjoying weekend with leisure and recreation activities.

I met the mom and asked whether she could give us permission to use her daughter as a model for our promotional visual. The mom agreed but it was pretty difficult to encourage the girl act in front of my lens. Isabelle might think i was a stranger so that she initially did not want to show her "move". But after couple of minutes playing with her, this charming and smart girl showed her exuberant shouts. She was so excited when I gave her a dolfi toy. She even splashed the brine to me, lucky not to my camera. Kids sometimes are unpredictable. Take a look at her exhilarating photos below. She's so cute, isnt she.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Impression

It’s just similar with winning somebody’s heart, to win your customers, you must get them impressive at the first sight. Particularly in the hospitality industry, first impression is very important. Staff at the Front Office (FO) Department will play significant role to make the guest imposed. Whether receptionist, bell desk, porter, or pick up driver, he or she must be careful even when the first time they greet the guest.

Remember, if a guest is already happy with our treatment when they meet our staff during the airport pickup, or during check in process, I am sure the guest will have good comments on the rest of our services and facilities, even though, he finally experience some unpleasant services, perhaps in one of the restaurants. The guest will easily forget it. The guest will say, ”It’s ok, the receptionist is friendly, they are nice.”

But when the guest has already experienced distasteful treatment for example during check in, or he complains about hotel’s driver who is unfriendly, or he met an unhelpful staff at the airport, I am sure the guest will have bad judgment for the rest of his/her stay. Although later on, we deliver excellent service at the restaurant or we give him special service when ordering some snacks at the pool bar. He will not easily appreciate it, because he is already upset at the beginning. What is in his/her mind is just negative thinking, and that’s normal.

One thing is important. Generally, a complaint about bad service is more difficult to handle compared with a complaint about bad facilities. For example, if one guest complains about not cooling AC in the room, it is easy to solve. Just call the engineering staff and fix it or if need to replace with new AC, recommend the guest to move to another room while the staff is repairing the AC. Express an apology and that’s it, finish.

But there will be a big story if we do not take care the guest’s request, if we delay the job, or if we serve them without pride. What the guest needs actually only “there must be somebody assist him and deliver his request immediately”. If we do not show our “good will”, that we really care about him, that we want to help him, the guest will simply think that we just ignore him. Then the story will be more complicated and the case will be difficult to solve, although we offer him a free room night.

It means, complaint about attitude is considerably hard to handle rather than problem with malfunction on facility (let say a window which doesn’t work properly). I don’t say that there will be no big deal when there is something wrong with coffee machine, but we can repair it immediately. Surely, it is a big problem if there is a guest complains about attitude of one of our staffs. Believe me.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Summer FUNtastic a la Novotel

Summer is heating the Kingdom, and Novotel Al Dana Resort is celebrating the season. The resort which recently gained a gold trophy in the Best Leisure Hotel category of MENA Travel Awards 2008, is offering one stop leisure activity, making sure every guest experience memorable summer holiday.

Either you spend your nights or just visiting the resort for weekend excursion, Novotel’s summer experience begins from its uniquely resort atmosphere and warm greetings from the attentive staff. The resort’s spacious Arabian style rooms are the comfy mansion to hide away from hectic routines, while other facilities are set to make your holiday dreams come true.

Chill out the heat at the resort’s large swimming pool and let the friendly staff serve you with varied selections of drinks and snacks. While you are laying down under the shaded blooms of brightly coloured garden, your partners are enjoying sumptuous brunch by the pool. A barbecue station is prepared every weekend to complement wide range of scrumptiously International, Arabic and Seafood menu. All are freshly cooked to meet your enjoyment.

For fitness enthusiasts and health conscious individuals, Al Dana Sport & Leisure Centre presents one of the most advanced and well-equipped gyms in town. You have many choices to fill up the summer holiday with activities at the fitness studio, steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and even massage therapy. If you are family traveller, our indoor and outdoor kids club will exhilarate your children’s exuberant.

If you like sunbathing, you could get a perfect tan by relaxing at the resort’s private beach. And there the action starts, where you splash the brine and slither down the sand, punctuated by laughter and screams of excitement. Then challenge your partners to ride jet ski, banana boat, kayak and other adventurous water sports. It’s truly FUNtastic.