Hot on the heels of its participation at WTM London this year, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) organised a promotional tour, which included key cities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Meetings were held with tourism industry professionals and representatives of major travel and tourism companies in the cities of Kuwait, Khobar, Riyadh and Jeddah during the tour.
During the tour, SCTDA workshops attracted more than 400 participants from tourism and travel companies, media professionals and media organizations in the four cities. Sharjah’s cultural and tourism attractions, events and special offers were highlighted by the delegation. Most prominent among these are the upcoming UIM F1H2O Powerboat World Championship, the Sharjah Grand Prix 2017 and the Aquabike Championship in December, the Sharjah International Book Fair in November and the Sharjah Light Festival in February.
Chairman of SCTDA, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, emphasised the importance of Gulf markets: “GCC markets remain the largest source markets for tourists to Sharjah and the emirate has achieved its position as a preferred destination for Gulf tourists because of its ideal tourism product and family facilities. Gulf residents accounted for 23 per cent of the total nationalities staying in the emirate’s hotel establishments during the first half of 2017. Out of the 200,000 GCC guests welcomed to Sharjah’s hotel establishments, Saudi guests made up the largest number with 71,000 visitors.”
The emirate's delegation included representatives from the Sharjah Travel Agency (SATA) and a number of hotels: Sharjah Sheraton, Oceanic Khorfakkan Resort, Royal Tulip 72, Ramada, Ruby and Aryana, as well as Al Shaab Shopping Center which includes a number of family leisure events and Breeze Travel & Tourism Agency.
“Out of the 200,000 GCC guests welcomed into Sharjah’s hotel establishments in H1 2017, Saudi guests made up the largest number with 71,000 visitors”
– Khalid Jasim Al Midfa
Sharjah’s hospitality sector is on a good run. Revenues witnessed a remarkable 7.8 per cent increase during the first half of 2017 compared with the previous year, reaching $101m as revealed by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). Guests received reached 885,000, representing a 3.5 per cent year on year increase. With a wide range of offerings for the local, regional, and international tourists, the emirate reported a 70 per cent occupancy rate from January to June this year.
Al Midfa, said: “The remarkable expansion in the occupancy rate is the result of the Sharjah Government’s intensive efforts to attract local, regional, and global tourists as part of its comprehensive and ambitious socio-economic development plan. Our goal is to draw 10 million visitors a year by 2021. To achieve this end, we will launch forward-thinking initiatives, bold projects and campaigns, as well as maximise all our assets and resources to place Sharjah, the UAE’s cultural capital, on the global tourism map and enhance its brand and profile on the international stage.”
SCTDA inaugurated its new East Coast office and tourism information centre in Khorfakkan, one of the emirate’s attractions for local, regional, and international visitors. The opening, which coincided with the global celebration of World Tourism Day on September 27, was held in the presence of Sheikh Saeed bin Saqr bin Sultan Al Qasimi, deputy chief of Emiri Court in Khorfakkan; Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, SCTDA chairman, along with various representatives of government departments from the East Coast region, industry leaders and prominent figures.
The SCTDA has attached great importance to the East Coast area, giving emphasis on its rich natural resources and considerable economic potentials. Part of SCTDA’s efforts is to conduct workshops and partner with important tourism organizations to develop the infrastructure within the area and improve all tourism-related services such as cruise tourism.
The new office will play a key role in the promotion of projects in the East Coast region–initiatives that are aimed at highlighting the environmental and sustainable aspect of its tourism segment.
These projects include the ‘Al-Rafaf Inn’ project, the latest eco-tourism project in Kalba that was launched by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in collaboration with the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA); the ‘Kalba Ecotourism Project,’ the ‘Hafiya Picnic Park,’ the ‘Khorfakkan Corniche Development,’ the ‘Al Jabal Resort - The Chedi Khorfakkan,’ and the preservation of natural reserve areas like the ‘Alqurm Protected Area’ and the ‘Lehhfaiiah Protected Area,’ ‘Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre’ and ‘Kalba Bird of Prey Centre’, along with heritage sites and archaeological discoveries that date back to Hellenistic Period, which continue to attract a large number of tourists to the East Coast region and promote the emirate as a very complete tourist destination.
International markets in focus
SCTDA also completed a successful promotional tour in China, one of Asia’s biggest markets, as part of the Sharjah Government’s intensive efforts to attract more global tourists and new international business opportunities.
The tour ran from September 11 to 15, 2017, and featured a series of workshops as well as key meetings with representatives from Chinese travel and tourism agencies. It covered wider Chinese territories to reach out to bigger audiences, including the capital Beijing; Wuhan, Central China’s largest city; and Guangzhou, Southern China’s commercial and tourism capital.
According to SCTDA, the total number of Chinese guests to Sharjah hotels reached 62,000 during the first half of 2017, representing a 27 per cent increase versus the same period in 2016, during which time Sharjah hotels welcomed 49,000 Chinese guests.
Apart from the tour of Chinese markets, Sharjah has been actively focusing on Russian markets. SCTDA has concluded its participation at the 23rd International Trade Fair for Travel and Tourism, also known as the ‘Leisure Moscow Fair,’ that took place at the Expocentre Fairgrounds in Moscow between September 19 to 21. This marks the 15th year that the SCTDA has been participating in the event organized to provide tourism industry leaders with a platform to explore new opportunities in the global tourism market.
Al Midfa said that Russia is one of Sharjah’s major tourism source markets. Local hotels reported a total of 106,693 Russian guests for the first half of the year alone, or a 98 per cent increase versus 54,017 guests during same period in 2016. Russian guests accounted for 446,437 hotel room nights for the first half of the year, representing a 103 per cent increase versus the same period in 2016 at 220,396 room nights.
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