The Northern Emirates are reaping the rewards of a well-managed strategy, lighting the way to a bright tourism future. Panayiotis Markides reports.
The UAE is a diverse nation offering visitors an array of accommodation options and copious unique experiences.
The Northern Emirate destinations of Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah are all reporting strong growth in 2016 arrivals which indicate that, in terms of the tourism industry, the destinations can compete with their sisters, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Highlighting this strength, general manager, Cove Rotana Resort – Ras Al Khaimah, Andreas Mueller commented to TTG that Ras Al Khaimah is in fact seeing the strongest growth of all the emirates. He noted: “Ras Al Khaimah Tourism is working hard to make the destination popular by highlighting the natural beauty and endless possibilities of the emirate, apart from beautiful beaches and unspoiled nature.”
Sharjah is also witnessing an increase in guest arrivals, with Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) having recently revealed that for H1 of 2016, the emirate welcomed a 19 per cent increase on the same period in 2015, indicating that there is nowhere to go but up for the destination. It also highlighted that Sharjah is well on its way to achieving Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 – which aims to welcome 10 million visitors by 2021. Ajman too is on its way to fulfilling Ajman Vision 2021 and to meet this, general manager, Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD), Faisal Al Nuaimi remarked to TTG that it has launched a new brand identity, ‘Sincerely Emirati’, along with launching its new website, ajman.travel.
With encouraging figures across the board for these emirates, TTG spoke with key stakeholders to find out how the Northern Emirates have achieved their success, and what more lies ahead.
A FOCUSED VISION
Speaking of Ajman’s rising popularity, Al Nuaimi expressed: “Ajman is still a favourite destination or staycation for the UAE and GCC markets. Our tourism statistics for the first half of 2016 indicated strong numbers from these markets staying at our hotels and hotel apartments.”
In terms of promoting Ajman, Al Nuaimi informed TTG that ATDD is working with industry stakeholders to attract the European, UAE, GCC and Indian markets. “We make sure we are present at local and international exhibitions including road shows to create awareness and promote Ajman as a safe destination for tourists, families and investors.”
He also noted that the MICE sector is an emerging segment for Ajman, and the emirate’s hotels offer facilities to complement those already available from its universities and municipal buildings.
Similarly making an effort to develop Sharjah’s respective MICE offerings, SCTDA recently produced a study aimed at discussing factors that would enable the emirate to enhance its MICE sector, and hosted a workshop to discuss the study with industry stakeholders. Speaking at the workshop, chairman, SCTDA, HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa said: “We are highlighting our clear differentials in the MICE sector, especially as authorities across the world focus on education, training and exchange of experiences.”
Executive assistant manager, Radisson Blu Resort Sharjah, Kamal Rijhwani told TTG exclusively that the property is also focusing on further developing its MICE product: “Our outlook for 2016 continues to remain positive, and we are preparing for the year with an enhanced hotel offering, driving MICE from the GCC and India and also increasing our presence in markets such as other Middle Eastern markets, eastern and northern Europe, and India and China by participating in the exhibitions and approaching wholesalers and DMCs.”
BUILDING THE ATTRACTION
The increased interest in the UAE’s Northern Emirates however is not without good reason, with a slew of developments across the destination strengthening the emirates’ tourism product.
Major hotel operator FRHI Hotels & Resorts has a number of MENA hotels in its pipeline, including Fairmont Fujairah. Set for a 2017 opening, the project will consist of a 194-room hotel with dedicated meeting facilities, a Willow Stream spa and a marina.
Meanwhile, Al Nuaimi of ATDD described to TTG some of Ajman’s latest developments: “The Al Zorah project, one of Ajman’s biggest attractions, located in the north of the city, will see the opening of The Oberoi Al Zorah at the end of the year. A new Ajman Marina Restaurant complex is also underway opposite Ajman Saray and new hotel and hotel apartment openings are on the way for 2016 and 2017 including a new Ramada at the Corniche.”
General manager, Kempinski Hotel Ajman, Kai Schukowski added to this: “There have also been discussions about a major shopping mall in order to reposition Ajman for tourists and boost footfall.” He noted that the Al Zoraj Golf Club, with its course by Nicklaus Design, is already ranked in the top ten in the Middle East.
Ajman’s developments can only do Kempinski Hotel Ajman no end of good as Schukowski relayed to TTG that in terms of occupancy, the hotel is ranked first in the emirate.
Mueller of Cove Rotana Resort – Ras Al Khaimah also highlighted to TTG how the five-star property will be enhancing its offering. “The Cove Rotana will be adding a total of 150 rooms in the new wings located at the resort entrance which will be opened in 2017. The new extension consists of a pool, kids’ area, main restaurant and pool bar.”
An alternative to the glitz and glamour of Dubai and culture-infused offering of Abu Dhabi, the Northern Emirates are taking their own unique path to tourism glory.