New opportunities await Sharjah's Tourism and Hospitality sector: Khalid Jasim Al Midfa

SCTDA Chairman says government support has been helping tourism sector tackle post Covid-19 challenges

  • Several new tourism projects, hotels coming up in Sharjah, especially on east coast

SHARJAH: Although Sharjah’s tourism sector has been hit hard by the Covid 19 pandemic, as have all components of the economy, government support and stimulus packages have been helping this vital sector take on the challenge, said HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). Domestic tourism has largely softened the blow and is now proving to be the mainstay of the tourism sector in the Emirate in the wake of the Covid-19 challenge.

Thanks to the government intervention, the UAE as a whole has successfully weathered the storm and now has a brighter future ahead, Al Midfa stressed. “Recovery to pre-crisis levels may probably take longer than first predicted with a more widespread re-opening of borders yet to unfold. We must also factor in the long-term changes in travel behaviour as a result of the crisis,” he added. 

‘Sharjah Safe for Travel’

Listing out the strategies being employed by the Sharjah government to revive the tourism sector in the Emirate, Al Midfa said that the Emirate is working to restore the traveller confidence through measures such as the ‘Sharjah Safe for Travel Stamp’ and constant monitoring of the Emirate’s tourist attractions and hospitality establishments in collaboration with the Sharjah Health Authority.

“We have focused much of our recovery policy on supporting the Emirate’s tourism businesses to adapt successfully to new challenges while putting together policy measures that will provide financial relief to struggling businesses in the tourism sector,” he added. 

Targeting Overseas Markets

SCTDA have been maintaining strategic connections with the key markets where Sharjah’s presence continues to be highlighted through a number of media and advertising channels with strong promotional campaigns. Al Midfa stressed that the Emirate has been aggressively targeting international markets by carrying out promotions overseas in preparation for the post-Covid19 period and looking at opportunities for potential development of the sector, through diversification into adventure and nature tourism, education and research tourism, and sports tourism. The adoption of digital solutions and experiences is also playing a part in the strategy to tackle tourism post-Covid. 

Returning Tourists to Sharjah

Al Midfa said that while the impact of Covid-19 has been significant on the tourism industry and both international and domestic tourism sectors have been affected by the containment measures, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel and tourists are returning to Sharjah. 

“Due to early adoption of precautionary measures, the UAE has already seen some part of recovery, especially in the valuable domestic market. As the vaccine rollout gains traction, 2021 is likely to see a resurgence in the tourism sector – especially towards the second half to last quarter of the year when travellers need to travel and confidence in the vaccine gains momentum,” he suggested.

“We can be more confident about domestic tourism as the circumstances of international travel and border controls are some way off from becoming settled. Our domestic travellers can offset greater spending on leisure and dining against travel costs,” he added. 

Resilient tourism sector

Al Midfa lauded the tourism and hospitality sector in the country on its smart and successful handling of the Covid-19 challenge: “The UAE tourism and hospitality industry have been incredibly successful in dealing with Covid-19. The domestic tourism sector has been successful in adopting and enforcing strict health and safety protocols, thereby aiding to control the pandemic within the industry and giving visitors a sense of security.

“The response by our hotels and hoteliers to the crisis is to be commended, as they have reimagined the guest experience and engaged with guests in an effective manner as all our venues and attractions continue to do as we reopen to visitors.” 

UAE’s Tourism Push

Al Midfa hailed the UAE government’s push for collectively promoting tourism across the country as an exciting and productive strategy that has led to tangible positive results. This inter-sector, coordinated approach is an invaluable example to us all in the industry on how to move forward, supporting all destinations in order to support recovery at all levels, he added.

“Sharjah has been extremely proactive in making use of the initiative, leveraging valuable exposure for our destinations while promoting a large number of offers and package deals compiled by our hospitality establishments and stakeholders. These specially designed tours and initiatives have been highlighted through promotional campaigns. Besides, SCTDA have been stepping up across all media channels, showcasing the unique hidden gems, un-spoilt landscapes and exciting attractions that the Emirate offers to visitors,” said Al Midfa.

Tapping new markets

The SCTDA Chairman said Sharjah have been employing innovative methods to attract new tourists and strengthen its presence in all markets. “We have used this strategic period to spread our reach, network and connections through online collaborations with relevant destination management companies. International sales teams and key agents have benefitted from online training schemes and webinars as a component of our strategy to enhance connectivity and attract new markets. Strong partnerships within the airline industry remain a major part of our marketing plans to forge collaborations and joint activities promoting Sharjah and raising awareness on destination offerings.”

Social media and online campaigns have been valuable for our messaging, allowing us to focus on maintaining a strong presence in these markets. Familiarisation trips for the media and trade journals are another way of showcasing Sharjah in these markets.

Showcasing Sharjah 

Talking about the ways of ensuring greater coverage of Sharjah’s numerous tourist attractions and activities in regional and international media, Al Midfa said that tourism in Sharjah has been coming to the fore over a number of years and the Emirate’s popularity has been ever-growing. 

“Until the Covid-19 crisis, we were yearly recording massively increasing numbers of visitors at our festivals, attractions and events, proving that the Emirate’s reputation as a captivating destination, highly regarded among visitors is well-deserved,” he added.

“Going forward, we aim to showcase Sharjah through a multi-faceted strategy. We are enhancing the website with several new features and up-to-date tourism inventory and assets. Our social media content will feature updates with more engaging and video-based content. There will be a stronger focus on domestic promotions and campaigns including highlights of the many unique experiences and activities on offer in Sharjah.  We are organising familiarisation tours for domestic tour operators to acquaint them with Sharjah’s offerings in preparation for the post Covid19 era.” 

New Tourism, Hospitality Projects

Welcoming the new and upcoming tourism and hospitality projects in Sharjah, Al Midfa stressed that infrastructure development, new investments, marketing and product diversification are critically important to the growth of the tourism sector, now more than ever.

The Sharjah government has been making constant efforts to develop and showcase the tourism sector in the Emirate taking advantage of the plentiful archaeological, heritage, cultural sites and museums and the natural beauty of the Emirate, stressed Al Midfa. 

East Coast Projects

“Sharjah’s East Coast and surrounding towns have derived massive benefits from recent investment and interest in particular. Most recently, a sanctuary with rich flora and fauna — the Khor Kalba Mangrove Centre was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah,” said Al Midfa. 

Development of Kalba

Kalba also stands to benefit from a new 26km-long Kalba road, which extends from Wadi Al Hilou to the Flag Square in Kalba.  The Kalba Beach Corniche, a key development project, aims to increase the efficiency of the Emirate's public infrastructure offerings available to the residents, visitors and beachgoers.

HH Ruler of Sharjah also laid the foundation stone for the Clock Tower Square in Kalba. It is one of the many development and tourism projects boosting public facilities and infrastructure in the region, in addition to a number of recreational and environmental projects that will enhance tourism in Sharjah, specifically in the Eastern region.

Khorfakkan Now More Attractive

Khorfakkan, the bride of East Coast, has also been enticing visitors with a number of new developments such as Rafisa Dam, a stunning lake within the mountains; Khorfakkan Museum, Al Adwani Tower and Al Rabi Tower and the magnificent new Khorfakkan Amphitheatre which is a new cultural landmark in the region.

Visitors can expect excellent accommodation options with two five-star hotels at scenic locations in Sharjah’s Eastern region. A number of upcoming projects in the city are set to gift it world-class modern facilities and leisure options to suit all family members, local visitors as well as tourists, including beaches, adventure sports, children's playgrounds, restaurants, cafes, malls and retail outlets etc.

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