GCC countries urged to relax sea travel restrictions to boost tourism

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Tourism

Dubai received more than 500,000 cruise visitors last year – compared with just 10,000 in 1998, according to General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) statistics cited by the Emirates News Agency – and the UAE market has been boosted by changes in regulations last year that allow cruise tourists to get a multiple-entry visa for all UAE ports in their itinerary. Regional tourism industry members have long campaigned for a Schengen-style system that would allow visitors to GCC states to enter any of them under a single visa.

“The yachting and cruising tourism market is very profitable and beneficial to the wider economy, so regional governments should look at supporting it through easier regulations,” said Al Shaali. “At the moment the procedures for moving across the region are very complicated and this is a significant challenge for growing the industry.”

The regional yacht manufacturing sector also faces significant infrastructure challenges, such as lack of berthing spaces, especially for larger superyachts, and the need for greater focus on industrial development, Al Shaali added. While interest in yacht-ownership is rising in the UAE and across the GCC, there is a need for businesses to provide related products and services to support the sector.

“To develop the yachting industry, you need to develop the wider industrial base,” Al Shaali said. “Other factors like real-estate availability and facilities play their part, but the main issue is having the industry and technology in place to support development.”

The UAE is ranked among the top 10 yacht building nations, with Gulf Craft leading the yacht-building industry both regionally and globally. While Gulf Craft focuses on the local, regional and international market sectors, the latter will make up 42 percent of its overall market this year.

“In our global journey we have witnessed successes and failures but we have learned a lot from these experiences and we have found that to compete in the international market you need to have the highest level of quality and provide the best value for money,” Al Shaali said. “Our role in Gulf Craft is to provide the best value to our customers by ensuring we deliver the best quality and the best entertainment experience for the best value prices.”

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