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Monday, 02 July, 2018, 12 : 34 PM [IST]

‘Continuous hotel development across varied segments is key to attract business travellers’

Slowly and gradually Sharjah is emerging as an attractive choice for Indian travellers to the UAE. H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, in an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh talks about their activities in India since establishing presence here in 2014 and the varied profile of travellers visiting the emirate, which are complemented by the hotel developments.
QWhat kind of tourist numbers have you recorded from India in 2017 & what was the percentage growth?
The number of Indian visitors who stayed in Sharjah’s hospitality establishments has gone up from 110,400 in 2016 to a total of 138,000 in 2017, recording an 8% growth, indicating the rising interest of Indian travellers in family-friendly international holiday destinations. The growing interest of Indian visitors in Sharjah’s tourism offerings also reflects the emirate’s popularity as an ideal holiday destination in the UAE.

QSince establishing your presence in India in 2014, what kind of traveller trends have you noticed from the Indian market, especially among young millennials?
Indian millennials are increasingly becoming travel-savvy and are more interested in exploring the cultural aspects of holiday destinations, which used to be a rare quality among the previous generation travellers. Since Sharjah has a lot to offer in these fields, it attracts visitors looking to immerse themselves in the rich culture and heritage of the emirate, while also providing an array of outdoor activities, local parks and nature reserves that house rare species of birds and animals.

We are also noticing an increasing interest from Indian tourists in ecotourism initiatives undertaken by Sharjah’s tourism department. Indians are also seeking short weekend getaways and staycations like never before. The concept of ‘glamping,’ a holiday experience that combines nature with modern luxury is gaining prominence as well.

QWhat is the current profile of visitors from India to Sharjah? Any plan to expand your reach to other traveller’s segments?
Indian visitor demographics flocking Sharjah’s tourism establishments are value shoppers, and enthusiasts of various lifestyle trends such as green living, travel, health and fitness, sports, technologies, family-oriented hobbies, media and entertainment. Among the most sought-after holiday activities in the emirate are beaches, family events, natural heritage and adventure activities such as desert and water sports.

The continuous development of midscale and business hotel properties in the emirate is playing a key role in attracting business travellers as well.

QBesides road shows, what are the other trade activities that you plan to undertake?
In addition to organising meetings and workshops involving leading tourism agencies across major Indian cities, we also participate in exhibitions regularly along with establishing multiple FAM trips for the tour operator. As indicated by the rising number of Indian tourists flocking Sharjah’s tourism establishments, our tourism events, festivals and lifestyle experiences are specifically designed to cater to the Indian market’s choices, appealing to both tourists and potential investors.

QSince India & UAE enjoy healthy business ties, what kind of focus are you according to the MICE segment?
In addition to our reputation as one of the most attractive, familyfriendly tourism destinations, the emirate’s popularity as a business destination is also rising, thanks to the development of midscale and business hotel properties that cater to the MICE sector, supported by the tourism industry and its various segments. MICE is a key segment that drives the tourism sector’s growth and SCTDA benefits from international promotional campaigns highlighting Sharjah’s clear differentials in this sector. As cited by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the number of international association meetings in the Middle East has more than tripled in the last 10 years.

We constantly organise meetings with potential investors highlighting Sharjah’s developments in this sector. With the ongoing five-star resort developments in the emirate, coupled with the diversity of gastronomic offerings and supporting tourism infrastructures, we are confident that Indian businesses will find Sharjah an attractive choice to connect with regional markets.

QPlans to promote Sharjah with Air Arabia?
The emirate, which is home to a large Indian community, regularly attracts visitors from the subcontinent seeking to meet their relatives or simply seeking to explore the country. Hence, we are keen to organise sustained and effective campaigns with all stakeholders in the tourism sector, especially Air Arabia which currently operates direct flights to 13 Indian cities, thereby ensuring a hassle-free travel experience to these visitors. Most number of tourist arrivals to the emirate is being recorded from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.
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