Interviews

Putting Bahrain on the Map

by BTM

Tue, 04 December 2018

Putting Bahrain on the Map

Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority (BTEA) advisor, Dr Ali Hassan Follad, shares his views on promoting the island as a wedding destination.

An expert in cultivating interest in Bahrain’s arts and crafts, tourism has been at the heart of Dr Ali’s career for many years. His current endeavour, ‘Island Wedding’, is a key initiative to position the Kingdom as a prime wedding destination – a job he takes seriously and delivers with great aplomb. “Tourism is very important in terms of revenue for the country,” says Dr Ali. “The concept behind Island Wedding is for BTEA to continue to play an active role in supporting our national economy. So, increasing inbound tourism and events, developing facilities and so on.

“It [Island Wedding] was just an idea, but not anymore. The support of His Majesty the King, HRH the Prime Minister, HRH the Crown Prince, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, HE Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani, and the daily support from BTEA CEO HE Shaikh Khaled bin Humood Al Khalifa, makes it a reality.

“The Island Wedding project has had a domino effect on the country’s economy, generating revenue not only for the Bahrain International Airport and the national carrier, Gulf Air, but also for the hospitality industry at large, including hotels, car rentals, wedding planners, interior designers, transportation services, and many more. Apart from the rich history, culture and top international hotel chains, it’s the kindness of the Kingdom’s people that makes Bahrain a great wedding destination.” 

Dr Ali and his young, dynamic team work feverishly to provide an enriching experience on every project – weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, or any special occasion – making people’s dreams a reality. All members of the wedding party are treated like royalty and receive a red-carpet welcome at the airport. “We always consider the families’ wedding as our wedding,” he adds.

Although BTEA’s strategic focus has been on Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and India, it also has a worldwide reach with representative offices in seven countries: Saudi Arabia, India, China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK.

“Last year, BTEA organised the largest Indian wedding in the Middle East, attracting 1,400 guests and crew; the project was a great success. With the cooperation of BTEA, the Ministry of Interior and airport authorities, we did an awesome job receiving them swiftly from the aircraft and getting them to the cars in under nine minutes,” says Dr Ali.

Since then, there has been considerable interest from other Indian families to host their celebrations in Bahrain. To entice new clients, BTEA took part in two major expos recently – the WOW Epex Experiential Planner, targeting B2B (wedding planners, events management companies, etc.), and the Vogue India Wedding Show, targeting B2C (customers looking for wedding destinations), with Bahrain being the only exhibiting country.

BTEA even provides holistic support to the families of soon-to-wed couples, offering a personalised experience with the appropriate budget considerations in mind. “We issue visas for the families and their wedding planners, facilitate and arrange all their meetings, hotels and DMCs [destination management company],” explains Dr Ali. “Sometimes, the BTEA CEO meets the families as a token of support in making this project an even greater success story.” 

Giving BTM exclusive insight into upcoming events, he adds: “We have confirmation of six weddings, with three more in the pipeline. We have strong ties with Gulf Air and work closely with them. For two of the weddings, [from Bangalore and Hydrabad], Gulf Air is providing its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners to fly the families here.”

Last year’s events generated USD8-10 million, and there are similar expectations for the 2018/2019 wedding season (November 2018 to April 2019).

We always consider the families’ wedding as our wedding”

#INTERVIEWS #BAHRAIN TOURISM AND EXHIBITION AUTHORITY

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