Sharjah:  Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the 9th edition of the Sharjah International Tourism and Travel Forum 2022, in the presence of His Excellency Abdullah Bin Touq Al-Marri, Minister of Economy. Themed “Building a Sustainable Future for Tourism”, the event is organised by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) at the Sharjah Expo Centre.

National Tourism Strategy 2031

In a keynote address, His Excellency Abdullah Bin Touq Al-Marri, Minister of Economy emphasised that the UAE has developed a tourism infrastructure and diversified the sector which is further enhanced by the National Tourism Strategy 2031 launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The strategy has been implemented to bolster UAE’s position as the most attractive tourist destination globally through the diversity and unique advantages of the seven emirates.

His Excellency Abdullah Bin Touq Al-Marri noted that his ministry is collaborating with local and federal partners dedicated to tourism, including airlines, the World Tourism Organisation as well as other partners. Their goal is to implement 25 tourist initiatives and policies through which it aims to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to the National GDP by AED 450 billion by 2031. The strategy plans to attract investments in the tourism sector worth AED 100 billion and bring 40 million hotel guests to the region.

HE the Minister also shed light on leading tourist achievements in the UAE, noting that as a destination it ranked 1st in the Middle East and 25th internationally according to the Tourist Competitive Index in 2021. The UAE also ranked 11th globally for the most attractive destinations in 2020, and over 10 years it maintained its position as one of the first 12 destinations in the world which attracts more than 10 million visitors annually. The overall contribution of tourism in the GPD is valued at AED 177 billion.

Diverse portfolio

For his part, His Excellency Khalid Jassim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCTDA  highlighted Sharjah’s keenness on working with all partners in different vital sectors, to make strategic plans aimed at the development of the tourism sector in the emirate. HE pointed out the importance of investing all available resources that enhance Sharjah’s position on the map of global tourism, in line with the vision and directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed AlQasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The emirate has a diverse portfolio of tourist destinations and quality development projects, particularly in ecotourism and adventure, moted HE.

Al Midfa remarked that tourism proved its resilience and ability to keep with the global changes, pointing out that the UAE realised the importance of the tourism and travel sector as a key economic contributor to the national economy, and its impact on people’s lives. He added that the UAE built on the diversity that characterises of each of the seven emirates ro enhance its tourist products which increased its attractiveness, pointing out that tourism contributed to 12% of UAE’s GDP, while the global rate stands at 10%, which is a solid proof of the pioneering position of UAE tourism.

Growing interest in sustainability

Gillame Masset, Senior Business Development Manager in UAE & Africa for Expedia gave a presentation as he discussed how his company had collected over 70 exabytes of data in collaboration with Wakefield Research, which is used to connect entities such as booking agents and hotels with the right customer by analysing their intent, interests and budget requirements. Massey pointed out that raising visitors’ community awareness of the importance of sustainability makes it imperative for government officials and tourism experts to collaborate with tourism companies to promote sustainability as it promises a more developed and eco-friendly tourist future.

During the opening ceremony, a short video was screened about Sharjah, its key characteristics and diverse tourist attractions in fields like the environment, sport and culture among others.

His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah awarded the sponsors, partners and speakers at the forum, with whom His Highness took a group photograph. His Highness then toured the exhibition that saw the participation of several government entities, and explored their tourist projects, attractions, initiatives and their impact on the emirate’s economy.

In its sessions and workshops, the Sharjah International Tourism and Travel Forum 2022 discusses the novelties and trends of the global tourism sector, as well as the future perceptions of tourism in Sharjah and the region. It also addresses the best innovative practices and exchanges ideas and vision with a host of decision makers and tourist experts from around the world to develop tourist projects and services as well as bolster sustainable tourism.

Along with His Highness the Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Majid bin Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, Chairman of the Department of Tourism and Archaeology in Umm Al Quwain; Sheikh Majid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of Districts & Villages Affairs Department; Sheikh Salem Bin Mohammed Bin Salem Al Qasimi, Director of SCTDA; Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, Chairman of Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Dr Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Media City (Shams); and a host of senior officials and tourism experts attend the opening ceremony.