Sustainable Tourism in Bahrain

Ramez Nemeh
General Manager, The Art Hotel and Resort Bahrain

Could you give us an overview of the tourism sector recovery post-COVID?

Bahrain was impacted a lot by COVID. The travel industry was almost dead for a few years, even before the pandemic. The traffic between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain became interrupted and the industry was heavily impacted by this in Bahrain and worldwide. The hospitality sector in Bahrain has been growing to accommodate the influx throughout the country. Many people are coming and going. Twenty thousand cars are moving per day, mainly on the weekends. This helped the tourism industry notice that a significant sector for economic development comes from tourism. This is why you can see that the extensive sector of the industry of the economy of Bahrain depends on hospitality. So the whole country was impacted. Recently, we had a meeting with the Minister of Tourism in Bahrain. According to the ministry's statistics, in the last two months, we have reached 80% of the traffic that there used to be in 2019, which shows how close we are to reaching the levels we had before the pandemic. Post pandemic, people's priorities have changed, and we expect to get 150-160% more tourists in Bahrain in the upcoming years.

How do you view sustainable development in the tourism sector?

I believe the tourism industry in Bahrain has a vast potential for a more considerable impact. Right now, our focus is to recover from the economic damage of the past three years, but integrating sustainable practices is essential for the environment and attracting increasing tourism, leading to economic development. Local regulators and our government are  influencing the integration of sustainable development within the business. Bahrain´s  vision 2030 has sustainability at the core, and the Art Hotel and all the industries aim to align with it.

What kind of initiatives are essential for you as a hotel manager to integrate sustainability into your daily operations?

Creating a sustainable business environment is critical for me. Especially proper leadership is something indispensable. I want my employees to feel empowered. Social and business responsibility are crucial features for a sustainable business, and it's about how you position yourself. People love honesty, so for me as a manager, having a transparent mission and results is a top priority.

Saudi Arabia is investing heavily  in growing its tourism industry. Would you see this as an opportunity or a challenge for Bahrain?

Bahrain was one of the first countries in the Gulf that was exposed to outside influences. Once we opened the King Fahd Causeway bridge in Bahrain, everybody was attracted to come. People from East Saudi, Central Saudi, Kuwait and Qatar, among others. Even though we have minimal resources, we are a very open and friendly country with a liberal type of Islam. Many people from the catholic church, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists enjoy the freedom of their practice in the country. People that come to Bahrain feel at ease,  and now with the bridge, we can accommodate the vast traffic and create smart mobility systems—Every country has its tourism focus. People travel to Belgium to eat the waffles, others to London to go shopping, and others to Saudi. We are a small country. We cannot compete with big powers because we are not a big power. We have a vibrant culture, welcoming and open people, a history dating back to 3000 BC, and beautiful landscapes. This is what we work with, and we are very successful at attracting tourists. There are endless possibilities when visiting, and this is why we are unique.