HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) highlights the unique positioning of Sharjah as a cultural capital in the region and the varied experiences it offers as a tourism destination
SCTDA has been focused on the Indian market in recent few years. What kind of growth have you witnessed from here ?
From 110,400 in 2016, the number has increased to a total of 138,000 Indian guests, which stayed in Sharjah hotel establishments during 2017. This growth highlights India’s strong interest for travel as well as increasing awareness about Sharjah as an ideal place to stay in the UAE. Travellers choose Sharjah for its beaches, family events, natural heritage and adventure activities in the desert and its water sports.
What is so distinctive about Sharjah as a tourism destination in the region ?
Sharjah maintains its reputation as a global destination for families and is widely positioned as the cultural capital in the region for its rich heritage. However, in recent years, the increasing interest among nature-seekers prompted the sector to tap ways to further capitalise on its natural landscapes and create a distinctive experience for visitors. Sharjah’s natural attractions and outdoor tourism hotels (Kalba, Al HefaiyahMountain Conservation Centre, Wasit Wetland / Kalba Kingfisher Lodge / Fossil Rock Lodge). There are activities in the desert, such as trekking, stargazing, and camping; in particular Mleiha. One can even enjoy water activities such as snorkelling, diving, kayaking in Sharjah at places like Al Khan Beach, Khorfakkan and Kalba. Sharjah has hosted various international water sports competitions – the U.I.M. F1H2O World Championship,UIM-ABP Aquabike Class Pro Circuit World Championship – the Grand Prix of Sharjah; and other events such as the Sharjah Light Festival / World Music Festival / Exposure that entice the younger segment of traveller.
In 1998, UNESCO awarded Sharjah the title of the Cultural Capital of the Arab World, and in 2014 it received the title of the Capital of Islamic Culture. Sharjah is a host to various museums like Sharjah Archaeology Museum, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, Sharjah Heritage Museum, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, Sharjah Maritime Museum, Sharjah Center for Astronomy & Space Sciences, etc. to provide a better introduction and understanding to the emirate’s history and Emirati culture.
What varied experiences does Sharjah offer which would be of much interest to the new age global Indian traveller ?
The new age global Indian traveller likes to experience adventure while on a trip. They will enjoy a visit to Khorfkkan, Al Qurm Nature Reserve, Kalba, Al Khan Beach, AlMontazah Waterpark etc. Sharjah never fails to surprise in terms of bringing in the contemporary, especially in this extremely historically significant location for the UAE.
For the enjoyment of tourists, Mleiha is a collection of prehistoric settlements that offers an exciting mix of adventure and archaeology. A wealth of fascinating artifacts, from camel skeletons to pottery and iron tools have been discovered here, with many on display in the outstanding Mleiha Archaeological Centre. There are plenty of family friendly activities in Sharjah that guarantees hours of fun for the entire family. One can visit Discovery Centre, Sharjah National Park, Arabian Wildlife Centre and Children’s Farm, Wasit Wetland, etc. Sharjah offers a treasure trove of modern malls, stylish shops, boutiques and unique souks.
Are you promoting Sharjah for MICE? Please give some information about convention facilities in Sharjah.
MICE market is undoubtedly continuously expanding across the Middle East, tripling in numbers during the last ten years. We have been promoting Sharjah’s developments in this sector and the advantages of holding MICE activities in the Emirate. We have been constantly working to meet investors seeking for growth areas in the Arab Gulf, and Sharjah is a perfect launch pad for MICE. With the ongoing five-star resort developments in the Emirate, growth in the diversity of gastronomic offerings, and other tourism infrastructures, we believe Indian businesses will find Sharjah as an attractive choice to reach out to regional markets.
For business travellers, Sharjah capitalises on its leisure tourism advantages coupled with the developments in infrastructure that caters to the MICE sector such as dedicated Expo Centre Sharjah for huge exhibitions as well as the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre for events focused on training, business forum and conferences. Major developments in the hospitality sector also support the growing number of business visitors in Sharjah, providing five-star facilities as well as branded restaurants, convention centers, offering MICE travellers an option to enjoy a uniquely Arabian experience.
Your views regarding the hospitality industry in Sharjah, and any new hospitality projects ?
Sharjah’s hospitality sector recorded a significant spike in the number of guests and visitors last year, compared to 2016. Currently, the emirate’s tourism and hospitality sector comprises 102 hotels, divided into 56 hotels and 46 hotel apartments, which provide approximately 10,000 hotel rooms.
Besides, the completion of the following projects that are currently underway, will add great value to the emirate’s tourism success:
Al Badayer Oasis, Kalba Kingfisher Lodge, AL Bait Hotel, Novotel Sharjah Expo, Sharjah’s Anantara Resort, Pullman Hotel, Fossil Rock Lodge, DoubleTree by Hilton Sharjah. In addition to Hilton Sharjah Corniche Road, Hilton will manage three more hotels in the emirate. In addition, we expect to announce details soon of another three prominent projects in the emirate; a desert park resort in the Mahthab area featuring 134 rooms, a hotel managed by Tulip with 210 rooms and Ramada Kuwait with 493 rooms.
What are your growth expectations from the India market in the next five years?
Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority are expecting high numbers in the next five years. To achieve this we are promoting three themes of Sharjah in India– these are Culture & Heritage, Gastronomy and Adventure.
SCTDA are organising road shows along with meetings and workshops involving leading tourism agencies across major Indian cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Ahmedabad, etc. , we also participate in exhibitions regularly along with establishing multiple FAM trips for tour operator. As indicated by the rising number of Indian tourists flocking to Sharjah’s tourism establishments, the tourism events, festivals and lifestyle experiences are specifically designed to cater to the Indian market’s choices, appealing to both tourists and potential