Meet the Man Who Brings Stars Within Reach

Here’s how event management is taking to the high-seas. 

Youssef Harb, founder of Stars of Board

The Middle East has recorded an impressive double-digit growth in cruise tourism in recent years, even exceeding the global average of 5% over the last three years. The number of cruise ships visiting Dubai alone has more than quadrupled over the last five years. “The growth in cruise tourism helped the region’s tourism sector through the more difficult period of the economic downturn, as the increasing number of cruise travellers provided a much-needed lift to the hospitality sector,” said Chris Hayman, Chairman of Seatrade and organiser of the Middle East Cruise Convention. 

One Canadian-based entrepreneur and promoter, Youssef Harb, saw a distinct opportunity in this flourishing market. The producer states: “Stars On Board takes great pride in bringing the rich heritage and culture of the Middle East to the world while creating a perfect blend of cultures through the love of music and entertainment. Marrying the luxury of an upscale cruise/resort with the delight of proximity to musical icons has led to a new level of vacation.”

Raising the Bar in Entertainment 

Having worked with the reality show, MBC, which aired on MTV for the last 8 years, Habib decided to bring his creative flair to the cruise industry. He explains: “For over 20 years, we have hosted numerous A-List artists including legendary talents like Fairouz, Majida El Roumi, George Wassouf, Warda Al Jazairiyah, and Kadim Al Sahir, while giving sensational stars such as Ragheb Alame, Najwa Karam, Amr Diab, Carole Samaha, Nancy Ajram, Melhem Zein, Elissa, Saber Rubai, Nassif Zeitoun and countless others the platform to showcase their talents.”

Guests can expect to experience A-List treatment complete with fine dining, health spas, casinos, concerts and nightlife entertainment. Recently guests had the opportunity to enjoy Stars on Board on a Miami Cruise, which sailed earlier in March, 2021. The cruise featured the talents of Sherine, Walid Toufic, Maya Diab and Vanessa Violinist in the star-studded line-up. Habib expressed that his efforts were geared towards allowing guests to experience the heritage of beautiful places in different continents while enjoying large scale events with famous artists. 

Following the Trend: MSC and Royal Caribbean Rethink Entertainment

In the hustle and bustle of daily life, time has become a precious commodity. So when people get the opportunity to take a holiday cruise it tends to come with the unspoken expectation of supersizing vacation fun with minimal hassle. Some cruise liners have adopted a novel approach in an attempt to fulfil this unspoken expectation. 

MSC Cruises announced on their website that they were introducing new forms of entertainment to cater for smaller group sizes and onboard activities. The announced activities included 4D cinemas, bowling, disco and various other activities geared towards family entertainment. 

The Royal Caribbean redesigned the customer journey by introducing a range of integrated technologies, aiming for a “shore-to-ship” experience. The Royal Caribbean reinvented their operating model to deliver experiences on-demand to their guests. Moreover, the highly acclaimed Starpower International is set to hold a dance battle on the Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas, giving participants in the competition the opportunity to perform at sea in the Bahamas. The event is set to take place next year. 

What Lies Ahead

According to the Global Cruise Tourism Market 2018-2022 report, the cruise tourism market is expected to reach a compound annual growth rate of over 6% by 2022. The global tourism market is expected to witness an accelerating trend in the increase of onboard facilities and offerings. The report notes that over the past few years there has been a noteworthy expansion in the inclusion of recreational activities such as shopping, gaming, sports and casino offerings. It is expected that these additional offerings will continue to drive growth in the global cruise tourism market. 

Interestingly, there seems to be a growing trend among cruise liners and event management companies to offer niche experiences. An example of this can be seen with Stars on Board, who caters for a Middle Eastern experience, introducing guests to Middle Eastern music, dance and talent. Yet another example of a niche offering can be seen in Royal Caribbean’s digital overhaul to cater for a shore-to-ship experience. It is not unreasonable to expect that even more exciting changes lie ahead for the tourism industry.