Sharjah focuses on eco-tourism
In the next five years, Sharjah will open 34 hotel establishments or 5,700 new rooms, effectively doubling its portfolio, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), tells TTN ahead of ITB Berlin.
“We will also highlight the emirate's diverse portfolio of eco-tourism and adventure offerings at ITB Berlin; outdoor activities and festivities like Sharjah Heritage Days; and how we have managed to utilise newer technologies such as the AI Tour Guide Chatbot, Smart Hotel Licensing and Classification, Smart Vehicle Permit System, Marhabtain Learning Management system, and the Hotel Statistics System- Business Intelligence (HSS – BI), to help bolster our local tourism programmes.
“The Sharjah-Khorfakkan road, cutting travel time down to 45 minutes has thrown open the east coast to visitors and we will highlight the many attractions of Khorfakkan, Kalba and Dibba Al Hisn, including the recently opened Khorfakkan Beachfront Project, which has 13 restaurants, sports facilities including two football and one volleyball pitch, kids’ zones and walking and cycling tracks.”
THE YEAR AHEAD
In 2020, a number of projects will come to fruition in Sharjah, notably, The House of Wisdom, built as part of the Sharjah World Book Capital for 2019 celebrations. The two-storey library will be located on the Sharjah International Airport Road and will sit amid landscaped gardens and feature a large, cantilevered ‘floating’ roof, The House of Wisdom conceptualises the library as a social hub for learning, supported by innovation and technology.
The east coast remains a focus and following the successful opening of the Sharjah – Khorfakkan road, infrastructural developments on the Kalba Corniche and Khorfakkan road projects are ramping up.
Expected to open in 2020, a road that connects parts of Kalba and extends to the border with Oman will enable the movement of traffic from Kalba to Sharjah and Dubai, without passing through Fujairah, shortening travel times and reducing pressure on the existing networks. Phase Three of the Khorfakkan road project is about 73 per cent complete and is expected to be finished in the first quarter of 2020. In the interests of sustainability, the projects are being implemented with modified asphalt, a significantly more durable product and LED lighting, reducing power consumption by 50 per cent.
This year will also see the completion of the Kalba Waterfront project in Kalba, a mall and lakeside promenade boasting beautiful views of the serene lagoon lined by mangroves. The mall will offer an outdoor shopping experience, along with a variety of indoor and outdoor restaurants, family entertainment centre and a children's play area, in addition to a magnificent park around the lagoon.
“As we head towards Expo 2020 and the 2021 celebrations of the UAE’s 50th year, we expect to see the opening of further new tourism venues like hotels, restaurants and other related facilities,” says Al Midfa.
SCTDA will focus on placing key focus on eco-tourism products, including outdoor activities and branded hotels that cater to this segment, Al Midfa tells TTN.
“This year, we are placing stronger focus on adventure tourism as the emirate's offering of diverse adventure activities and facilities make Sharjah an attractive must-see adventure destination.
“In Sharjah, we have something to offer for everyone. In fact, history and adventure enthusiasts will enjoy a great deal of time in exploring and learning more about Sharjah's rich culture and heritage. The emirate is home to many historical sites and museums, such as 'Heart of Sharjah’, the largest restoration project in the region, Mleiha; an important archaeological site and desert tourism venue, moreover, Sharjah’s east coast attractions and the activities to be enjoyed there are without par.
“Outdoor enthusiasts will also enjoy our desert offerings, with a demand that continues to grow each year. Aside from overnight camping and other fun adventures, tourists can take part in attractive offerings like thrilling four-wheel through acres of unspoilt sand dunes, spectacular rock climbing, and sand skiing.”
Other top tourist attractions in the emirate such as Al Majaz Waterfront and Al Noor Island offer a combination of indoor and outdoor relaxing or activity driven options for visitors; such as a splash park, mini golf, literature pavilion and so on, all of which add to the emirate’s perfect mix of cultural and archaeological landmarks and desert adventures.
Sharjah is additionally home to very unusual attractions such as the immersive installation Rain Room, which uses 1,200 litres of self-cleaning recycled water, providing visitors with the innovative experience of continuous rainfall while motion sensors prevent drenching.
Lastly, for something more restful and tranquil, a visit to Sharjah’s beaches and blue waters can be both rejuvenating and refreshing.
“One of the key goals of the Sharjah government is to be able to drive in more than 10 million visitors by 2021, which coincides with the country's 50th founding anniversary. To date, we have already achieved 70 per cent of this goal or the equivalent of over seven million visitors coming to the emirate,” says Al Midfa.
Sharjah welcomes visitors of all kinds, from those coming for leisure purposes to those coming for Mice-related events. “Building on its present business tourism infrastructure, Sharjah has actually carried out substantial measures in the last few years to build and increase its Mice tourists.
“In line with this, the current move to add more five-star developments, increased number of gastronomic offerings and the addition of newer tourism-based infrastructure, help reinforce then emirate's move to position itself as a highly preferred tourist destination.”