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Sharjah 2016 | TOURISM, CULTURE & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hanan Al Mahmoud, Director of Al Jawaher Reception & Convention Centre (JRCC), on the appeal of Sharjah as a MICE destination, plans for expansion, and the projected benefits of Expo 2020.

 Hanan Al Mahmoud
BIOGRAPHY
Hanan Al Mahmoud serves as the current Director of JRCC, as well as Board Member of the Sharjah Sports Council. She heads several committees for events and initiatives across Sharjah and remains committed for the 10th consecutive year to extending any kind of support or volunteering services wherever her expertize is needed.

What characteristics make Sharjah such an ideal hub for social and corporate events?

Sharjah holds the unique position of being the cultural hub, not only of the UAE, but also of the region, winning several Islamic and International awards to support it. Choosing to focus on that strength, impact, and demand for cultural interests made Sharjah distinctive in terms of the variety of events, businesses, and organizations that it cultivates. Under the nurturing care and close supervision of its Ruler HRH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, you can see how over the past decades Sharjah has flourished—no matter what the field of knowledge, in reading, education, art, museums, or festivals­—it has positioned itself in a way that is very different to the other Emirates. It delivered something truly worth investing in and, with the vision of this leader, keeps going from one height to another, making sure to raise the bar. Aside from international titles the Emirate has won, Sharjah has also claimed international recognition for many of its annual events, such as the Sharjah International Book Fair, the Sharjah International Film Festival, and the Sharjah Light Festival, to name a few. Then you have its significant location, connecting the two parts of the Emirates, with Dubai and Abu Dhabi on one side, and then the four eastern Emirates on the other; Sharjah is pretty much in the middle, serving as a main artery in the anatomy of the country.

Into which specific segments are you planning to expand?

When we launched the JRCC we anticipated a 4-1 ratio in terms of social to corporate events hosted. This expectation was based on the demand of the market and lack of options, as people were literally lined up outside the door to book their weddings and social events before the construction even finished. That being said, weddings tend to occur on weekends so there are only three days available for clients to book for weddings, since only a small percentage of people are willing to have it any other day. This means that we have five days of the week for corporate events, which would naturally indicate room to improve the anticipated ratio. As we have continued to pull in more corporate clients we have lifted this ratio to 7-3, so the corporate functions have now increased, which means that the occupancy rates have increased in general. We remain focused on social events of course; they are our bread and butter, but at the same time we look to invest heavily in the right balance. Our focus in 2016 will be to strengthen our name in the corporate market and work more toward being the business hub and the “it" event venue for any kind of MICE event, the same way we have successfully established it for social ones.

What are the opportunities that you see to host meetings during Dubai Expo 2020?

It is common knowledge that the Emirate of Dubai is investing heavily to ensure it can cater to the enormous demand that Expo 2020 is creating. The officials there expect to open over 100 new hotels just to cater to the delegations received and for over AED89 billion of business to be exchanged, and this will create many opportunities for us. The expo will not just enhance Dubai but the entire Emirates. As a neighboring Emirate, we will get a slice of the clients, visitors, and partners who choose to stay in Sharjah, or host their events here. We want to ensure that we are ready by 2020 and have taken our business to the next level in terms of the services scope that we are offering. We will be ready to cater to any kind of requirements.


 

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