Overall investment in Sharjah exceeds $10 billion

HE Mohamed A Al Noman, director general, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, speaks to SHALU CHANDRAN

You have just launched a new identity for Sharjah. What will this mean to the emirate?
We have started the project of rebranding Sharjah only now, but have been promoting our emirate for decades. Our new identity “Sharjah, my destination” showcases our main focal points which are education, culture and heritage, the East Coast, leisure and the business and MICE sector.
The emirate’s new brand mark comprises three elements, namely the Sharjah symbol, the Arabic word mark for Sharjah and the Latin word for Sharjah. This brand is for the whole emirate. One of the main objectives of having a brand is to be consistent and have a visual that everyone can identify with.

What were the emirates tourist arrival figures for 2007 and what are your targets by 2010?
According to our 2007 statistics, we saw an average of 80 per cent occupancy throughout the year with almost 1.5 million tourists staying in Sharjah hotels. The number of guests staying in Sharjah’s hotels and hotel apartments surged by 11 percent in 2007 to 1,456,058 guests, as compared to the figure of 1,315,745 guests in 2006.
The total number of hotels and hotel apartments in Sharjah increased by 30 per cent from 74 in 2006 (24 hotels and 50 hotel apartments), to 96 in 2007 (33 hotels and 63 hotel apartments).  Room nights increased to 1,498,197, in 2007 an 11 per cent increase from the 1,355,266 occupied room nights recorded in 2006.
We need more rooms before we can set a target for 2010. We have seen a healthy growth of about 37 per cent year on in the last few years and hope to see that continue in the next couple of years as well.

What are your key priorities for 2008?
We will continue to tap more source markets to increase tourist arrivals into Sharjah. We have and will continue to participate in local, regional and international platforms.
There are a lot of new hotel properties under construction in Sharjah and will be ready in the next couple of years. We foresee the hotel room inventory to increase to over 10,000 rooms by then and with the 80 per cent occupancies that we witnessed in 2007, the foresight is looking good, but we want to take it much further in terms of infrastructure and the brand identity.
We are also keen to promote the MICE market in Sharjah as well as the redevelopment of the East Coast region. Khorffakan, Kalba and Dibba has a lot to offer as a destination, but still needs a lot of infrastructure to be able to attract and sustain tourism growth.

What kind of recognition does Sharjah as a destination have today with international travellers?
We have always had amazing feedback from tourists and agents who are keen to learn more about Sharjah and what they have to offer. Since the establishment of SCTDA, we have highlighted the various family attractions of the emirate. We have always positioned ourselves as a cultural heritage destination, though that is a terminology overused by almost every destination today. 
The authority is also targeting international markets, and organising events and activities that further promote the emirate through tourism, trade fairs and promotional tours.

Could you elaborate on the SCTDA’s responsibilities and role in developing the infrastructure of the city?
If you drive around Sharjah today, it’s like a huge workshop. There are major investments going on for streets, roads, networks, bridges and tunnels, but it takes time and people will have to be patient. This is happening across UAE, not just Sharjah because the growth in these cities is by far much faster than the expansion.
The city will see an overall investment in excess of $10 billion over the next couple of years and this investment will go into projects, resorts and hotels, road networks, city infrastructure, shopping malls etc

What are your personal views on Sharjah’s unique attributes?
Sharjah has the family essence. It has an excess of 50 parks and gives the feeling of openness. However, no government department working separately can reach its goals. We have to work with other tourism authorities in the UAE as well as the public and private sectors. We are continuously working with ADTA and DTCM, even though we have separate tourism strategies and plans.