Monday, May 24, 2010

Is Bahrain open for tourism?

A letter sent to Bahrain Tourism via their website:

Is Bahrain open for tourism?

Is Bahrain open for tourism to passport holders other than those listed on the eVisa website as able to obtain a visa on arrival? Evidence would suggest not.

In assisting Indonesian friends to obtain a tourist visa, the eVisa website states that “You must have a sponsor who can apply for a visa on your behalf. Contact one of the following for assistance:

• Your airline.
• Your intended hotel in Bahrain.
• A Bahrain travel agent.
• A Bahrain company which is willing to sponsor you.
• A Bahrain citizen who is willing to sponsor you. “

Upon enquiring to the 4* and 5* hotels (Sheraton, Diplomat Radisson, Crowne Plaza, Mercure, Elite, Regency Intercontinental) mentioned by the same website, the response in each case (for those that bothered to respond) was that hotels are only able to obtain business visas, and visitors still needed to be sponsored by a company in Bahrain. From my understanding this was not the case in the past. So effectively if tourists from countries such as Indonesia are not family members or relatives of residents in Bahrain, they are denied access to the country as tourists. Does Bahrain not realize that people from other countries can legitimately want to visit Bahrain to visit friends, to see the cultural and historical sites and shop?

What a shame for Bahrain’s tourism strategy in so many ways… what are you going to do about this?


And their response:
Delivery Status Notification (Failure)

From: ""
Add to Contacts
To: xxx

Delivery Status Notification (Failure).eml (7KB)
Note: Forwarded message is attached.

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Delivery to the following recipients failed.

Reporting-MTA: dns;
Received-From-MTA: dns;
Arrival-Date: Wed, 19 May 2010 14:44:27 +0300

Final-Recipient: rfc822;
Action: failed
Status: 5.2.2
X-Display-Name: Ahmed Fathi Sayed Shaheen
You get the picture... Not only is it not possible to get a tourist visa for nationalities who are unable to obtain a 'visa on arrival', but like most websites in Bahrain, you can't communicate with them... why do websites bother with 'Contact Us' details or forms to complete?  Why not just state "don't bother to contact us.... this is Bahrain... get over it!"

So, to wrap up, only 3 hotels bothered to respond (Sheraton, Elite Grande and RadissonBlu). Another, Gulf Hotel even disqualified themselves from being asked to respond, since both email addresses attempted from  their website were rejected.  Algosaibi Travel Agents, the only listed travel agent on the eVisa website also didn't respond.

On seeking further clarification from the 3 hotel respondees that they were actually saying they could only provide assistance in obtaining business visas, which you had to get a company to sponsor anyway... and therefore making the hotel's assistance obsolete (but ensuring they can't accommodation pre-paid for!!), only one, Sheraton, responded a second time.  The response being:
Please note that we are only arranging a business visa. We are not processing a visit visa.
So it seems you have to use an under-the-table arrangement with a Bahraini visa agent to get his company to sponsor a visit visa... Is this the Tourism Sector of the Ministry of Culture and (Dis)Information's official tourism strategy?  Presumably.  The same Ministry that promotes Bahrain with propoganda like this:

Yeah right!


Unknown said...

Thats a shame, I hope they can fix this soon.

If you ever come to bahrain, you have to visit

for the best restaurants, hotels, attractions and other local businesses in Bahrain

Jessie said...

Hotels also have apartment and suites with a living and a bedroom, but than you pay big bucks.

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