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New opportunities to further spice up Sharjah’s tourism & hospitality sector

Although Sharjah’s tourism sector has been hit to some extent by the COVID-19 pandemic, as have all components of the economy, government support and stimulus packages have been helping this vital sector take on the challenge, said Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).

Domestic tourism has largely softened the blow and is now proving to be the mainstay of the tourism sector in the Emirate in the wake of the COVID-19 challenge.

Thanks to the government intervention, the UAE as a whole has successfully weathered the storm and now has a brighter future ahead, Al Midfa stressed. “Recovery to pre-crisis levels may probably take longer than first predicted with a more widespread re-opening of borders yet to unfold. We must also factor in the long-term changes in travel behaviour as a result of the crisis,” he added.

Listing out the strategies being employed by the Sharjah government to revive the tourism sector in the Emirate, Al Midfa said that the Emirate is working to restore the traveller confidence through measures such as the ‘Sharjah Safe for Travel Stamp’ and constant monitoring of the Emirate’s tourist attractions and hospitality establishments in collaboration with the Sharjah Health Authority.

“We have focused much of our recovery policy on supporting the Emirate’s tourism businesses to adapt successfully to new challenges while putting together policy measures that will provide financial relief to struggling businesses in the tourism sector,” he added.

SCTDA have been maintaining strategic connections with the key markets where Sharjah’s presence continues to be highlighted through a number of media and advertising channels with strong promotional campaigns. Al Midfa stressed that the Emirate has been aggressively targeting international markets by carrying out promotions overseas in preparation for the post-Covid19 period and looking at opportunities for potential development of the sector, through diversification into adventure and nature tourism, education and research tourism, and sports tourism. The adoption of digital solutions and experiences is also playing a part in the strategy to tackle tourism post-COVID.

Al Midfa said that while the impact of COVID-19 has been significant on the tourism industry and both international and domestic tourism sectors have been affected by the containment measures, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel and tourists are returning to Sharjah.

“Due to early adoption of precautionary measures, the UAE has already seen some part of recovery, especially in the valuable domestic market. As the vaccine rollout gains traction, 2021 is likely to see a resurgence in the tourism sector – especially towards the second half to last quarter of the year when travellers need to travel and confidence in the vaccine gains momentum,” he suggested.

“We can be more confident about domestic tourism as the circumstances of international travel and border controls are some way off from becoming settled. Our domestic travellers can offset greater spending on leisure and dining against travel costs,” he added.

Al Midfa lauded the tourism and hospitality sector in the country on its smart and successful handling of the Covid-19 challenge: “The UAE tourism and hospitality industry have been incredibly successful in dealing with Covid-19. The domestic tourism sector has been successful in adopting and enforcing strict health and safety protocols, thereby aiding to control the pandemic within the industry and giving visitors a sense of security.

“The response by our hotels and hoteliers to the crisis is to be commended, as they have reimagined the guest experience and engaged with guests in an effective manner as all our venues and attractions continue to do as we reopen to visitors.”

Al Midfa hailed the UAE government’s push for collectively promoting tourism across the country as an exciting and productive strategy that has led to tangible positive results. This inter-sector, coordinated approach is an invaluable example to us all in the industry on how to move forward, supporting all destinations in order to support recovery at all levels, he added.

“Sharjah has been extremely proactive in making use of the initiative, leveraging valuable exposure for our destinations while promoting a large number of offers and package deals compiled by our hospitality establishments and stakeholders. These specially designed tours and initiatives have been highlighted through promotional campaigns. Besides, SCTDA have been stepping up across all media channels, showcasing the unique hidden gems, un-spoilt landscapes and exciting attractions that the Emirate offers to visitors,” said Al Midfa.

The SCTDA Chairman said Sharjah have been employing innovative methods to attract new tourists and strengthen its presence in all markets. “We have used this strategic period to spread our reach, network and connections through online collaborations with relevant destination management companies. International sales teams and key agents have benefitted from online training schemes and webinars as a component of our strategy to enhance connectivity and attract new markets. Strong partnerships within the airline industry remain a major part of our marketing plans to forge collaborations and joint activities promoting Sharjah and raising awareness on destination offerings.”