‘We are working along four verticals to develop a world-class cruise offering,’ Farooqui said. These cover port infrastructure with Dammam now under development and on target to be ready by the end of this month in advance of the winter season; partnerships and coordination; destination development and human capital development.
On partnerships, Farooqui gave a nod to fellow panelist Capt Ibrahim S Koshy, CEO of SAUDIA Air Transport Co and national carrier, ‘as they work to create tailored airlift and fly-cruise packages.’
Cruise line partnerships
On the cruise line front, he noted Cruise Saudi has worked on deployments with Silversea, MSC Cruises and Scenic this past summer reaching around 20,000 guests at sea and MSC Bellissima is returning to homeport in Jeddah for a seasonal cruise program in the Red Sea with an Aqaba, Jordan stop too starting November 6, ‘which we are taking as proof of the great potential of the cruise industry in Saudi.’
On destination development Farooqui noted , ‘Saudi has so much to offer that the world has simply not seen before and we are working with partners on the ground to develop seamless itineraries.
‘One of our goals is to play our part in allowing people to explore Saudi in comfort, with all aspects taken care of. Once all parts are tied together flawlessly, which is what the cruise customer expect, they will have an introduction to Saudi which we know will keep them coming back to discover more.’
Human capital investment
Regarding human capital, Farooqui shared, ‘We need to equip our people with the knowledge and experience of how to run flawless tourism operations. They have more than enough enthusiasm, natural Saudi warmth, and a pride in showing Saudi to the world, so all we need to do is to equip them with the know-how.’
In this regard, several training programmes are in play such as the Saudi Ambassadors program with MSC Cruises, which has seen 25 young graduates aboard MSC Bellissima as trainees for the duration of the summer season. Saudi chefs also sailed onboard MSC Cruise itineraries providing a touch of local cuisine to the menus. Ashore, local tour guides are also been trained to international standards, he added.