INTERVIEW: Chairman, SCTDA, HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa

SCTDA

Sharjah has been busy refining its tourism product. Speaking to Tatiana Tsierkezou exclusively about the emirate’s progress was chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa.

TTG: What is new with SCTDA?

Sharjah continues to introduce and add new activities to its calendar of cultural events, with an aim to attract more visitors and to further develop niche markets. For instance, SCTDA recently joined a tourism delegation from the UAE, led by the Ministry of Economy, to visit three Scandinavian cities, as part of the ‘Visit UAE’ roadshow in Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. Among many other activities, the Authority plans to focus on such roadshows in the next couple of months to accelerate tourism growth. We recently announced our plan to organise roadshows to enter the Far East Asian markets, in collaboration with Emirates Airline.

All Time Aviation

Another recent milestone is the hosting of Sharjah Summer Festival in July, which comprised major entertainment, recreational and cultural activities. The launch of Sharjah Summer Festival takes us closer to the achievement of our goals by giving us one more opportunity to present more diverse, fun-filled activities for families during summer vacations. We are keen on launching more festivals and events in the near future to bolster the local tourism sector and to boost Sharjah’s reputation as one of the world’s most preferred family holiday destinations.

Meanwhile, the ongoing restoration of the ‘Heart of Sharjah’ heritage district – the largest and most ambitious historical preservation project to take place in the UAE – is expected to be completed by 2025. Registered in the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, the project will revitalise the heritage district as a lively cultural destination.

We are also excited about the upcoming eco-tourism projects, inclusive of the Kalba Eco-Tourism project and the Sir Bu Nair Island project, which will host a five-star hotel and resort, and retail and leisure offerings, located 65 km off the coastline of the Arabian Gulf.

Three new luxury eco-hotels, located in nature reserves and heritage sites such as the Mleiha archaeological area in the desert by South African Mantis Hospitality, as well as luxury heritage hotel, Al Bait, in the Heart of the Sharjah district, are set to further enhance the appeal of our tourism sector.

In terms of new family attractions, the Al Montazah Parks, which opened in February 2018, is the latest. The park is an all-encompassing water and leisure destination, with the ‘Pearls Kingdom’ waterpark full of thrilling rides with relaxing green areas for picnics, more rides and F&B outlets. Sharjah’s famous ‘Eye of the Emirates’ wheel has recently been relocated to this venue.

TTG: What noteworthy travel trends have you picked up on so far this year?

Travellers are becoming increasingly choosy, not just about the destinations, but also regarding the value of the overall experience.

We intend to capitalise on Sharjah’s diverse cultural background and other such unique aspects to attract more tourists. Reflecting the growing popularity of the ‘bleisure’ trend, more and more business travellers are exploring Sharjah’s tourism offerings as well. Many such employees who travel for work on long weekends bring their families with them, confirming the emirate’s status as a family friendly holiday destination.

TTG: What is SCTDA’s strategy for the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019?

We are currently reaching out to the Far Eastern markets through partnerships with public and private entities, in response to increasing traffic from these countries to various Middle Eastern destinations. The ever-growing number of outbound tourists from China has made the country a key new market for us. A series of upcoming events in Q4, such as the Sharjah International Book Fair and the F1H2O Powerboat Championship, are set to add further momentum to these efforts.

Simultaneously, we are working towards attracting a greater number of visitors from the UK and Ireland with our unique offerings, in line with the Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, which aims to bring in more than 10 million tourists to the emirate by 2021.

A trade campaign has been designed to achieve this, encompassing a comprehensive education and engagement programme. Key product themes under focus are family, culture, soft adventure and eco-tourism. We continue to work closely with key tourism partners, in addition to a range of upcoming hotel launches in 2018 and 2019, to further maximise growth opportunities.