Sharjah Tourism has kept sustainability at the core in its overall tourism development. “Sharjah prides itself of its sound approach to sustainability as preservation of our rich natural heritage is integral in our development vision for the emirate, in line with the UAE’s overarching goal to promote sustainable tourism to all stakeholders. Eco-tourism plays a strong feature among large-scale projects that are in the pipeline, including key hospitality projects and service companies providing visitors with a richer travel and leisure experience,” Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, said in an e-mail interview to T3.
Detailing about the new initiatives on the sustainable tourism front, Midfa said that the USD 12.3 million Al Badayer Desert Camp project is one of the premium adventure destinations coming up soon as an urban resort and desert lodge set to provide a totally unique Arabian adventure. Another significant development in this segment is the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project featuring Sharjah’s rich geological landscape that dates as far back as 130,000 years ago. The Kalba Eco-tourism project is another major development and the largest among the emirate’s sustainable tourism initiatives. “It is a carefully-designed project within Sharjah’s east coast aimed at promoting biodiversity while providing a fulfilling experience for visitors,” he added.
According to him, travelers nowadays have increased awareness on mindful travelling which is why these projects are at the core of our initiatives, to help create awareness across all sections of society on the value of nature conservation and the importance of maintaining a healthy and sustainable business. “This has been at the heart of many policies and regulations across Sharjah to keep up with the growing trend not only on nature destinations but also on sustainable cities.This approach creates a stronger leverage for unique destinations like Sharjah to continue attracting visitors – both for business and leisure across the emirate and contribute to economic growth,” he added.
Sharjah has been getting business travelers and VFRs from India and the focus was to woo family travelers and MICE from India. “Sharjah offers the growing holidaymakers from India multiple ways to enjoy the emirate. With a growing number of travel-savvy Indian millennials, our family-friendly communities offer an ideal setting to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities which makes Sharjah a destination of choice for them especially the uniquely Arabian desert landscapes, water sports activities, historical and archaeological sites, as well as parks and nature reserves. There is also an increasing trend for ‘glamping’ activities where visitors explore nature while not missing out on the modern luxury and convenience of staying outdoors,” Midfa said.
As for business travelers, Sharjah capitalizes 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. Sharjah has recently expanded into the business hotel market with the Novotel Hotel Sharjah which will feature 120 rooms and suites. The hotel is close to Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. In addition, the Pullman hotel has 188 rooms and suites The emirate offers very competitive platforms for Indian businesses as their launchpad to reach out to regional markets,” he revealed.
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 capitalize our natural sceneries and create a distinctive experience for visitors. We have also increased activities such as desert adventures, including trekking, stargazing, and camping, as well as international water sports competitions and events that promote adventure for the young market and we consistently develop these portfolios through partnership with the private sector,’ Midfa informed.
Talking about the Indian arrivals, Midfa said that the number of Indian visitors who stay in Sharjah hotel establishments is steadily increasing – from 110,400 in 2016 to 138,000 in 2017. “A large composition of travelers come from the VFRs. Young travelers are also increasing, coupled with a constant mix of business tourists. There is also growing interest among travelers in value shopping, health and fitness, sports, and technologies, among others,” he said.
Sharjah Tourism has been tapping the potential of those cities that are connected directly to India by Air Arabia. However, it is now expanding its reach in India market. “Sharjah’s direct flights to 13 Indian cities cater to the large Indian community within the emirate. However, we are always looking to expand our reach to include new cities. It is important for us to develop new market reach through partnerships with key travel players located in India. Apart from that, we are constantly developing strategic initiatives that would facilitate the travel experiences of these sectors,” he said.
On marketing and promotional fronts, the Authority has already initiated numerous activities throughout the years such as organizing meetings and workshops, familiarization trips and participation in key exhibitions across India such as the SATTE Exhibition. “We will continue to boost these efforts including advertisements in key markets and optimizing our social media presence to increase engagement. We also have established our India Representative Office to facilitate our efforts and strategically sustain our campaigns,” he added.