Demand for voyages originating in Abu Dhabi from Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises has led to a record-breaking season for the Abu Dhabi cruise industry.

Celebrity Constellation carried more than 13,000 guests in 975 staterooms – a 95% load factor – during its six 12- to 15-night voyages that departed from Abu Dhabi in the 2016/17 cruise season, while demand for the upcoming 2017/18 season is also up 23% when compared to the corresponding period last year.

Michael English, head of business development for the cruise line, said: “Last year was the first year we sailed from Abu Dhabi and we have had an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from both our agent partners and our guests. We are now looking forward to the 2017/18 season when Celebrity Constellation will return to the region.”

Meanwhile, MSC Cruises will return for a third successive season in 2017/18, homeporting its 3,900-passenger MSC Splendida at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal to meet growing demand for its 15 winter-sun cruises in the region, many of which will call at Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach, the Gulf region’s only desert-island cruise stopover.

Saeed Al Dhaheri, cruise tourism and city tour development manager at TCA Abu Dhabi, said: “By continually evolving our cruise offering through initiatives such as the recently opened cruise beach on Sir Bani Yas Island, we are confident the example set by Celebrity Cruises and MSC Cruises will act as a catalyst for more cruise lines to follow suit and deploy ships in Abu Dhabi. This will stimulate demand for our airline, hospitality and tourism industry, as well as lead to wider benefits to the tourism ecosystem.”

Overall, Abu Dhabi is forecast to welcome more than 300,000 passengers from 148 calls made by 18 ships from 15 different cruise lines during the 2017/18 cruise season. This would be a double-digit percentage growth in passenger numbers from the 2016/17 season – a record-breaking year – and an 8% increase in ship calls.

Looking still further ahead, an economic impact and forecasting report by Oxford Economics predicts that the Abu Dhabi cruise tourism segment will attract 450,000 cruise passengers by 2020, rising to 808,428 in 2025.

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