Cruise Ship Tourism
For the last few years the number of cruise ships visiting the Fujairah Port has been gradually increasing.
The future of cruise ship tourism to the eastern emirate looks bright as the number of baby boomers increase and this comfortable holiday option gets more attractive (see this example by Costa Cruises of the unveiling of Fujairah and other unique journeys around the Middle East coastline).
58 Ships to Fujairah
The cruise ship season in Fujairah is limited to the cooler months but in this current season, between November 2010 and May 2011, 58 cruise ships are expected to visit Fujairah, including the ‘Brilliance of the Seas’ (Royal Caribbean Lines), one of the largest cruise ships in the world, which is scheduled to dock at Fujairah on 25th January 2011.
The cruise ships to Fujairah are of different capacities but at an average of 2,500 passengers per ship, that represents a huge number of tourists and a whopping number of souvenir hunters that are looking for photo experiences to capture and Middle Eastern mementoes to take back home.
Little Reason to Get Off the Ship
Despite the cruise tour publicity that lures tourists to take a cruise, a search of cruise ship trip advisory notes reveals that Fujairah has become for most of the tourists a rest day during which the majority of passengers stay on board the ship.
Too many former tourists have written, “Nothing to see in Fujairah so we spent the hours at the Fujairah Port by the ship’s swimming pool.”
Some tourists have written of their Fujairah experience: “Got a minibus to Lulu Hypermarket to do some shopping and then returned to the ship.”
No Fujairah Tourism Operators
Tourism is not the responsibility of the Port of Fujairah but the port’s deputy Marketing Manager, Nourah Al Shara, does her best to alert tour guide operators of the cruise ship schedule. Of the five tour operators who meet the ships and offer tours, four are from Dubai and one from Sharjah. This raises the question, “Where are the Fujairah tour operators?”
This is no disrespect to the current tour operators who run tours on the UAE East Coast but it is appalling that there are no Fujairah residents that are running tours for cruise ship tourists and quite possibly to all tourists in the eastern emirate!
One would think that local guides would best be able to inform visitors about their city or emirate. Surely, it would add to the authenticity of the visit if the tourists knew they were receiving a commentary from a Fujairah resident and ultimately an Emirati guide.
Heritage Village Emerging
Since the development of the Heritage Village surrounding the arena for the Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition, tour operators have been increasingly taking cruise ship tourists there, to see the crafts on display as well as to take pictures of the Fort.
In the last two months, thanks to the efforts of the Fujairah Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Al Sharqi and the leadership of Sheikh Abdulla bin Saif Al Sharqi, a new hub for Fujairah tourism has been envisaged at the Fujairah Fort.
With the development of a heritage souq, a cafeteria, the displays of falcons, bull butting, Arab horses, sword skills and camel rides the people of Fujairah have begun to see a new and permanent way of catering for short-term visitors such as the thousands who visit the emirate each year by cruise ship. Much work still needs to be done to develop this site and the overall tourism concept.
Four Hour Tourism
The nature of cruise ship travel is that ships cover many coastal destinations but come into port for a night or just for a few hours. If cruise ship visitors to Fujairah are in town for a few hours, in addition to offering short mini-bus tours it may be preferable to develop the Fujairah Fort and Heritage Village as a one stop tourist destination where people get to experience some authentic Emirati culture and see sufficient glimpses of what Fujairah offers that they’ll want to make a longer return visit.
Middle East Has Potential to Become World’s Major Global Travel Hub, FIF, 13 December 2010.
Al Saif Competition Reaches Climax but Its Impact Will Last, FIF, 8 December 2010.
This article is also posted on the Fujairah in Focus Facebook Page.
Image: “The cruise ships to Fujairah are of different capacities but at an average of 2,500 passengers per ship, that represents a huge number of tourists and a whopping number of souvenir hunters that are looking for photo experiences to capture and Middle Eastern mementoes to take back home.”
Look at the logo on this cruise ship, ‘Coastal Village’: “See more, do more, be more.”