Isaak Mathew, Algosaibi Travel: «The small island of Bahrain offers vast opportunities for business travellers»

The new partner of the Russian Association of Business Travel is Algosaibi Travel agency — one of the leading travel service providers in Bahrain. The company has been offering services for corporate buyers and MICE coordinators and has been engaged in incoming and outcoming travel for many years already.

The Kingdom of Bahrain, that occupies 33 islands in the Gulf has started gaining popularity among business travellers since 2004, when the first Formula-1 race took place on the Sakhir track. The track that was built specially for this event and cost the kingdom almost $ 150 million. But time has shown that the investment was worth it.

But Sakhir is not the only place of interest of this destination, according to Isaak Mathew, general director of Algosaibi Travel. What else can this Arabian country surprise Russian corporate buyers with?

— Mr Isaak, what branches of industry are of top priority for Bahrain’s economy today?

— Bahrain is an important financial centre that has great importance for retail trade. The travel industry also contributes to our country’s GDP. The small island of Bahrain offers vast opportunities for business travellers.

Nowadays, due to liberal policy and acute interest to family travel, we have more visitors from our region than from other countries. A notable number of guests come from Saudi Arabia.

— Bahrain has been actively promoting family travel and MICE for the past few years. The main aim was to attract as many foreign guests as possible to the country. Have your priorities changed?

— Family travel involves the regions mostly, and MICE — mainly foreign visitors. There are fairs, exhibitions and product presentations in our country all year round.

As for MICE, Bahrain offers great facilities. It was obvious after we hosted Formula-1 guests and participants in 2004.

As for the car industry, our island is of great interest in terms of car tests in extremely hot conditions.

Besides, Bahrain has been promoted as the Centre of cultural heritage lately. Manama, the capital of the country, has become the «acropolis» of Arab culture in 2012. And in 2013 it was the capital of Arabian tourism.

— In what way is the Russian market attractive for Algosaibi Travel? Unfortunately, there are no direct flights from large cities of our country, including Moscow, to Manama. Moreover, if we compare hotel prices in Bahrain with those in Dubai, the first are higher. How can a travel manager attract a company’s attention to Bahrain as a possible MICE destination?

— Although Bahrain does not have direct air traffic with Russia, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways offer daily flights with a convenient connection in Bahrain. Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM and other air carriers make flights to Bahrain from Europe every day. There are lots of ways to get to the island.

This journey will not exceed 5 hours, which ideally suits MICE groups and individual tourists.

Russia and Bahrain refer to the same time zone. Besides, not long ago the Kingdom simplified visa rules for Europeans, including Russians: you can get an entrance visa when you arrive at the airport of Bahrain.

As for Dubai hotels, accommodation rates are very high there. I am not sure that Dubai hotels offer low rates on the Russian market. Bahrain offers a unique standard rate for all 5 star accommodation facilities and it does not change during the year.

— What hotels in Bahrain could you recommend to business travellers?

— If we speak about 5 star hotels, the best choice for business travellers is Kempinski, Sheraton, Radisson Blu or Intercontinental. I would like to mention Sofitel that has its own beach for MICE groups and other travellers. Ritz-Carlton also has its own beach. Business travellers will probably also like the 5-star Gulf Hotel.

Bahrain offers quite a lot of new 4-star hotels with competitive prices. For example, Novotel Al Dana resort.

— When do hotel rates rise?

— As a rule, during «Formula-1» and Moslem holidays.

— Do you use Bahrain’s national colours to tract tourists?

— We do not have sand dunes, unlike other countries of the Gulf. Our deserts are more like wild grass and they are not suitable for exiting incentive tours.

Bahrain is in the first place promoted by its government as a country with a rich history and culture, where all people are friendly. And although the kingdom practices Islam, it attracts tourists due to its liberal customs.