Sharjah Summer Campaign 2022 turns the spotlight on the innumerable experiences that travellers can enjoy in Sharjah. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) shares his views on the growing stature of Sharjah as a global tourism destination. Excerpts from the interview:
Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) recently launched Sharjah Summer Campaign 2022. What are your expectations in terms of partnership, number, economic impact, hotel occupancy from this campaign? Which are the focus markets for this campaign?
The Sharjah Summer Campaign is one of our most popular and successful annual activations, and its popularity continues to grow this year as more and more visitors and tourists from across the UAE and the world turn towards our culturally rich and naturally diverse emirate to satiate their passion for experiential travel. Until September 30, we expect to welcome a big turnout of vacationers from the UAE, India, Europe and beyond. We have partnered with 16 top brands to offer our guests and their families all-inclusive leisure and hospitality packages at special discounted rates. We are certainly expecting a positive economic impact from the inflow of visitors, especially since our hotel occupancy rates have been promising thus far.
You recently rolled out a new adventure tourism project in Khorfakkan. What are the salient features of this project? Are you planning to position Sharjah as an adventure tourism destination?
SCTDA’s new adventure tourism project in Sharjah’s breathtaking eastern region of Khorfakkan shines new light on the emirate’s expansive potential for adventure tourism and is being developed on a picturesque site overlooking the serene Luluyah beach. Upon completion in Q4 in 2023, the development will be a haven for adrenaline seekers with its offerings of a zipline, a giant swing, a dry-slide track, hiking tracks, mountain bike tracks, and more.
What new tourism infrastructure projects are in the pipeline in Sharjah?
Sharjah’s tourism infrastructure is at the heart of the emirate’s overall strategy of economic development and diversification. The new developments in Sharjah’s tourism landscape are massive both in terms of the vision of each project and their value. We have some bespoke new projects in the pipeline that will have something new and unique to offer.
Post Covid, what new elements have you incorporated in your marketing and digital strategy?
With the travel industry slowly getting back on its feet, we are working towards establishing Sharjah as the most-preferred destination for all categories of visitors in both business and leisure sectors. SCTDA’s post Covid-19 marketing, and digital strategies are guided by targeted B2B activities that include trade partnerships, designing of campaigns, participation in global trade shows, and more. We have also adopted an extensive, result-oriented approach to our B2C activities. To generate consumer awareness, we launched targeted activations on key global digital platforms and boosted our visibility via direct traveller targeting on prominent travel community platforms.
How do you plan to position Sharjah in the India market?
India has been a key source market for Sharjah, and we continue to maintain our appeal for Indian visitors through well-researched and aggressive marketing campaigns designed specifically to appeal to the sensibilities of Indian tourists and investors. Most Indian travellers value experiential and cultural travel experiences the most and a family-friendly destination is high on their list of priorities when they travel. Sharjah offers all the above and even within these offerings we create bespoke itineraries and experiences for our Indian guests.
We continue to position Sharjah as a one-stop holiday destination, perfect for a short haul, easily accessible from India and the most affordable family destination in the region for wholesome, world-class experiences.
What sort of marketing and promotional activities have you planned for the India market?
Aimed at growing a stronger foothold in the country, generating demand and consumer pull, and to support trade sentiment, we have worked on a holistic plan including a strategic mix of PR and marketing activities. On the B2C front, in particular, we are heavily focusing on digital promotions as it is an effective medium for the large-scale proliferation and outreach of our promotional activities across Indian markets. SCTDA has strategic plans in place to engage India’s digitally active audience which has grown multifold since Covid-19.
You have also been focussed on sustainable tourism. What initiatives have you taken/planned on the sustainability front?
Modern travellers are conscious about their environmental footprint and are increasingly looking to invest in vacations that are authentic and leave the least environmental impact. It is heartening to see the transformation of the concept of ‘responsible tourism’ from theory to reality as all of the sector’s stakeholders – businesses and consumers – actively champion sustainable tourism.
With projects like the ‘Sharjah Collection’ brand of luxury heritage inspired and eco-retreats, for instance, amongst several others, our emirate is undoubtedly leading the sustainable tourism drive in the UAE and the region. To facilitate eco-tourism growth, we are working hand-in-hand with all our partners to ensure that potential visitors are fully informed of the array of wonderful sustainable attractions, hospitality options and cultural activities that our emirate has to offer every category of traveller.
Air connectivity is coming back to normal. What is the status of connectivity between India and Sharjah?
The India-Sharjah air traffic has already gone back to its pre-Covid-19 levels. This is mainly since our emirate is connected to not just the Tier 1 cities in India but also to most Tier 2 cities via a number of short, non-stop flight options. Among 13 Indian cities from where passengers can take direct flights to Sharjah, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai currently top the charts in terms of tourist arrivals to the emirate. Now, with travel restrictions easing up, especially that fully vaccinated travellers don’t even have to take an RT-PCR test, and with multiple flight options available, travelling to Sharjah from India is a breeze.
Which segments of tourism and travellers are focussing on the India market?
Sharjah maintains its unrivalled international reputation as one of the most attractive destinations in the family tourism segment. Additionally, the fact that the emirate is home to a large community of Indian expats, Sharjah attracts a large number of visitors from the subcontinent in the VFR (Visiting friends and relatives) category.