As part of its efforts to provide better services and strengthen partnerships with the private sector, Bahrain’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism Sector launched its own call centre in cooperation with Silah Gulf (Silah), a joint venture between the eGovernment Authority and UK-based Merchants, in January this year.
Eight well-trained Bahraini nationals will be available around-the-clock to offer a wide range of tourism information and services in both Arabic and English. People calling the hotline on 800080001 can get information about tourist, cultural, and historical attractions as well as contact and general information on hotels, travel agencies, shopping and entertainment centres, and other facilities in the Kingdom.
To facilitate investments in the tourism sector and link investors to the concerned authorities, investors can also use the hotline to enquire about tourism investment procedures and relevant legislations. The call centre will also receive complaints and suggestions regarding tourism and relevant services.
“The launch of the call centre is a quantum leap in the tourism services offered to citizens, residents, visitors, tourists, and investors alike where all information about the tourism sector can be found through an easy phone service,” says Nada Ahmed Yaseen, assistant undersecretary for Tourism. “We are still working on enhancing this leading project further in phases, where it will include a tollfree number as well as an international number.”
She continues: “We hope that the call centre will help activate the tourism sector in the Kingdom as a key supporter of the national economy. The Tourism Sector at the Ministry of Culture cooperated with Silah in this initiative as part of the Ministry’s policy of partnering with the private sector to develop and invigorate the tourism sector through initiatives and activities using state-of-the-art technologies in addition to the Tourism Sector’s development of its services through continuous communication with the private sector and the launch of a new Bulk SMS text messaging service.”
Silah’s CEO Joe Tawfiq comments: “We are delighted to partner with the Ministry of Culture to help provide a professional face to tourism in Bahrain. By being available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and with a comprehensive knowledge base of information, the tourism hotline will be able to cater to visitors from all time zones.”
“Contact centres are fast becoming the key differentiating factor for companies and government services around the globe, and Bahrain cannot afford to be left behind in this trend,” adds Tawfik.
The call centre is one of the key projects that the Tourism Sector has been working on after Manama was selected as the capital of Arab culture 2012 and the capital of Arab Tourism 2013. The Ministry of Culture is preparing to launch more leading initiatives and projects in the near future to mark the two occasions.
Drop in hotel bookings
Meanwhile, Bahrain’s four-star hotels have lost nearly BD30 million ($79.5 million) in the last year, as room bookings have plummeted by 50 per cent due to the unrests across the island. A total of 27 hotels has lost around BD1 million ($2.6 million) each since violence erupted on the country’s roads on February 14, 2011, says Bahrain four-star Hotel Owners Association chairman Abdulhameed Al Halwachi.
“The losses suffered by the food and beverage industry and the service apartments are in addition to this,” he says.
Al Halwachi revealed plans to increase tourism as the association, in co-operation with the Culture Ministry’s tourism section, will hold roadshows in neighbouring countries in a bid to attract more people. This would give hotels the push they need to get back on their feet.
“We have to repeatedly tell everyone that Bahrain is a safe place to be in and take steps to counter the negative impact of the Western media’s misinformation,” he says. “We have to work together to get this going because we will suffer even more if that does not happen.”
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