Shurooq, the Sharjah Investment & Development Authority, highlighting the role of Tourism Leadership, Change & Innovation during the Sharjah International Travel & Tourism Forum (SITTF) 2021, displayed a pipeline of touristic attractions and developments.

From adventure experiences, glamping attractions to a series of new and unique hospitality projects, the government is working towards driving global attention towards the emirate’s flora, fauna and historical heritage.

Literally situated in the heart of the UAE, Sharjah features a rich historical background that the government is now aiming to bring to the forefront of all touristic activities. HE. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa Chairman of Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority, said, “Tourism is a critical sector and a key component in the UAE, as well as the global economy. The sector contributes 10% in the domestic industry. The leadership plays an important role in the development of tourism as they facilitate the industry through policies, and infrastructure development. In 50 years the UAE has made a huge leap with the visions of our leadership and our grandparents, and we are following on their footsteps to continue the development and progress. We believe this region has a very promising future.

“The UAE is currently receiving 20-25 million hotel guests per year, this is a significant number when the population is only 10 million. This shows the demand in this region currently. With the government investing in infrastructure and adopting best practices for the benefit of the entire country and most specifically the tourism sector.”

Several current projects showcased the innovations in tourism, and the many reasons marking Sharjah as an attractive touristic capital.

  1. Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman of Sharjah Investment & Development Authority, Shurooq, said, “At a time that is the kiss of life in this sector, it is important for us to showcase Sharjah on a global platform through strong participations in global events, such as the recently concluded World Travel Market in London.

“We started working on our comprehensive development programme by identifying features like heritage and culture. We converted several old Emirati homes into heritage hotels and museums, to keep alive the emirate’s cultural history and traditions. We used examples from other destinations such as Marrakech and Belfast, to convert these homes into hospitality projects offering exceptional services to guests to experience the Emirati way of life.”

Other key projects that came under the spotlight included Al Rahal, Mleiha Archaeological Centre, Al Faya Retreat, Al Badayer Retreat and Moon Retreat by Mysk, and Kalba – an eco-tourism project.

Two projects by Singaporean brand, LUX, in Sharjah and Khorfakkan were also showcased.

The role of social media as drivers of growth and awareness was a key point of discussion. “While our traditional methods of marketing are still in place, we are also using newer and more optimal ways to attract visitors to our destination. Social media and the role of bloggers and influencers play an important role in this.

“Unlike older methods of marketing, we have to now use marketing in a manner that it reached targeted individuals. Today social media platforms total around 80% of all marketing activities. These are essential tools for sustainability and continuity in driving awareness.”

He explained that Shurooq is working closely with the environment and reservation authorities in Sharjah to bring unique features of the Sharjah landscape incorporated into touristic activities and programmes. “There is a rare species of birds that inhabit Kalba that will be of interest to visitors coming to this region. Similarly, there is a species of Yemeni tigers that live and are seen in the UAE that many people don’t know about.”

The importance of preserving heritage and architectural sites were also brought to attention at the event. There are several heritage sites around Sharjah with historic importance that have been identified and are being evaluated to be considered for the UNESCO World Heritage listing. We hope that in the next four to five years we can achieve this task,” added Al Midfa.

A panel discussion on the Impact and Power of Bloggers on Destination Development was also held, featuring Nael Abu Al-Teen – Influencer, Marc Sanderson – International Economic Development Director & European Capital of Smart Tourism Spokesman, Marc Sanderson – International Economic Development Director & European Capital of Smart Tourism Spokesman and Sherif Fayed – Presenter and Influencer, moderated by Anas Bukhash – Serial Entrepreneur & Interviewer.

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