Sharjah aims for 10 million visitors in 2021

The emirate is diversifying its ecotourism, culture and nature offerings

H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa is Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), and is back at ITB Berlin to promote the rising Gulf destination. We started by asking about Sharjah’s trade highlights in 2019.

ITB Berlin 2019 is another opportunity for SCTDA to showcase our latest plans and strategies, in addition to our new tourism and leisure projects unveiled over the past few months. SCTDA is putting the spotlight this year on eco- tourism products, outdoor activities, and branded hotels operating in the emirate. All these are still aligned with the target of 10 million tourists by 2021, the UAE’s 50th founding anniversary.

Why is your tourism offering much more diverse than many people might imagine?
The landscapes of the emirate lend themselves to a huge range of outdoor activities: dune bashing, sandboarding and trekking through the desert near Mleiha, or kayaking and snorkelling are all possible for outdoor enthusiasts on the east coast. Sharjah is also known as the gateway to authentic Arab art, culture and ancient heritage, offering impressive historical and cultural landmarks. Other top tourist attractions in the emirate include Al Majaz Waterfront and Al Noor Island, which offer a combination

of indoor and outdoor relaxing or activity-driven options for visitors such as a splash park, mini golf and a literature pavilion.

What are some of the different things people can do in the emirate that they may not have considered?
Nature lovers will definitely enjoy watching the beautiful sun rise over the dunes in the Arabian desert, with a once-in-a-lifetime camel ride completing their desert experience. Or they might want to book a morning Desert Safari package to experience the tranquil beauty of the Arabian desert. We also have the village of Mleiha for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs and explorers seeking a relaxing experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This major tourist hub perfectly blends archaeological, eco, and adventure tourism.

Many spas and resorts and other key tourism projects are now in the pipeline in Sharjah. In 2018, the five- star luxury Al Bait Hotel opened in the emirate to deliver an authentic Emirati hospitality experience. Representing the best Sharjah has to offer, the hotel exudes Sharjah’s legacy and heritage. Khorfakkan is another tourist attraction, a top spot for divers with Shark Island being the most famous area.

Sharjah has a wide array of leisure and recreational activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family. We have scenic beaches, wildlife and public parks, and other Arabic attractions such as the Kalba area, Eye of the Emirates, and the Al Noor Mosque. The Butterfly House on Al Noor Island is one of the emirate’s newest and most unusual attractions. You will never run out of things to do in Sharjah.

Rain is of course very rare in Sharjah but a new Rain Room allows visitors to experience desert showers. Please tell us more.
Random International’s immersive installation Rain Room uses 1,200 litres of self-cleaning recycled water, providing visitors with the innovative experience of continuous rainfall while motion sensors prevent drenching. Operating since May 2018, the Rain Room is part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection and the first of a series of artist-designed permanent spaces.

LANDSCAPES OF THE EMIRATE LEND THEMSELVES TO A HUGE RANGE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

How would you describe Sharjah’s three USPs?
There are many reasons that make Sharjah a wonderful place to visit. First, it is a family-oriented destination, warmly welcoming people of different nationalities and cultures. Second, Sharjah is known as a cultural hub, showcasing not only the beauty of Arab traditions and heritage but it also emphasises the importance of preserving cultural identities while respecting diversity and differences. Lastly, the emirate offers a unique and unusual combination of authentic Arabic art, culture and natural heritage.


Photo: H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA)