University City Hall, Sharjah Light Festival 2017 University City Hall, Sharjah Light Festival 2017

SHARJAH: When Travelling Becomes a Family Matter (Part 1)

HAILED AS AN EMIRATE RICH IN HERITAGE AND EMBRACED IN CULTURAL PROJECTS, SHARJAH CONTINUES TO POSITION ITSELF AS A HUB OFFERING A PLETHORA OF RETAIL, LEISURE AND CULINARY PURSUITS, WATERSPORTS AND OTHER ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES GEARED TO CATER TO THE MOST DEMANDING TRAVELLING FAMILIES.

In a bid to lure families to the emirate, H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), emphasised, “Families have been a major market segment for us and has continued to be the core of our market stratergy.

We recognise that Sharjah is a perfect destination for people travelling as a family unit due to its safety and good positioning in terms of economic value.

There is also so much to do for families, the 22 museums and other attractions offer edutainment opportunities not found in other locations.”

Affirming this, Alper Can Bulcum, cluster general manager, Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach and Ramada Sharjah, explained, “There are numerous attractions in Sharjah that are ideal for family visits, be it educational or entertainment.

The emirate revives history in a modern context, with a combination of art and science museums, amusement and water parks, aquariums, restaurants and cafes, retail outlets as well as traditional and contemporary markets.”

He went on to say that with the launch of the Sharjah My Family Destination and Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, several ecotourism, heritage and cultural projects are now in motion.

In light of these campaigns, Wassim Nehme, hotel manager, Beach Hotel, Sharjah, added that tour operators are also stepping up efforts to boost tourism within to emirate by offering bespoke packages to attract families in visiting Sharjah.

Moreover, Rabih Zein, general manager, Radisson Blu Resort, Sharjah, pinpointed, “Sharjah has a number of recreational areas especially for families and boasts over 50 attractive landscaped parks, such as Al Montazah park, National park, Fun Park, and Al Buheirah Corniche, where anyone can enjoy a stroll and escape from the bustle of the city. The emirate is also notable for its numerous elegant mosques.”

He further stated that Sharjah is a venue for different national and international festivals, and as a unique selling point, all the festivals and events in the emirate are designed with a central focal point being families.”

Agreeing, Ghassan Farhat, manager, TIME Ruby Hotel Apartments, commented, “A lot of family attractions were added to Sharjah as a family oriented destination, such as upgrading Sharjah Al Majaz water front, upgrading Al Muntazah water park, maintaining activities like Sharjah Light Festival, and Sharjah Food Festival and other activities in Al Qasba area, Sharjah’s main family attraction.”

Adding, Michael Kasch, general manager, Centro Sharjah Hotel by Rotana, mentioned, “The Sharjah tourism board is in close contact with the main stakeholders of the tourism industry, with whom there is a strong bond. We hold regular meetings to discuss plans and projects to ensure that these are taken forward with full support and are indeed the right promotions needed to push the family tourism forward.”

PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT

Many tourism professionals make this niche market a priority when considering its long-established roots, therefore acknowledging the essence of the destination coupled with the urge to attend to desires of travellers, give professionals the upper-hand in family tourism.

Kasch, enthused, “We have a wide variety of guests from all over the world […], however our strongest guest base is from UAE itself and other GCC countries.”

In agreement, Al Midfa, divulged, “The GCC continues to dominate the list of Sharjah’s source regions for the tourism sector, sending 450,388 visitors to the emirate in 2016, which amounts to a 25 percent of all inbound traffic.

Asia meanwhile, was the second largest source region with 404,960 visitors in 2016, accounting for 23 percent of all visitors to the emirate for the respective year.”