A DIFFERENT DUNE

Sharjah 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Boosting tourism through PPPs is a key element of Sharjah's economic diversification plans overseen by Shurooq.

Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal
BIOGRAPHY
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal is the Executive Chairman of Shurooq. His career with Shurooq began as CEO in 2009 and he held that position until mid-2018, when he became the Executive Chairman under a decree from the Emir. Al Sarkal has led the authority by realizing the vision of Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, and established Shurooq as the driving force behind the transformation of Sharjah as a key investment, tourism, and business destination in the region.

How has shifting demand over the past years affected the Sharjah economy?

Sharjah has always redeveloped its economic strategy every time there has been a challenge. We have moved from being an oil-based economy to focusing on non-oil sectors such as education and tourism, among others. The bottom line is adaptability. We have seen many changes over the past decade. Today, the oil sector comprises only 30% of our economy. Sharjah is now a more diversified economy. It does not solely focus on any one sector. It has played a major role in the UAE developing into a light industrial hub, an educational hub, a heritage hub, and a cultural hub. Sharjah has hosted several international events and activities. The secret of our success is to strike a balance between demand and supply, and make sure we have the right price matrix for everything that we do. Opening the real estate market created a big shift in focus for Sharjah's economy. Along with the revolution in FDI brought about by the creation of specialized free zones such as the Sharjah Media City and Sharjah Publishing City, among others, we have opened new vistas for Sharjah.

Why did Shurooq choose the redesign project of the Khorfakkan beach project as its next flagship development?

Within our portfolio, we seek to create developments in every city around Sharjah. Khorfakkan is a city that sits between two mountains on the Arabian Sea. It is an exciting location because it has an important container terminal. It is a weekend destination for residents as well as tourists. It is an important port of call for cruise ships and has a fascinating heritage village. Our plan is to develop the beachfront and create activities by adding more restaurants, coffee shops, and a play area for kids. In the future, we will add hotels, a water park, and a resort. The goal is to position each city differently. We would like a footprint on the east coast with this project, which will significantly develop the economy of Khorfakkan. We want to create a project in every district of Sharjah. These projects will boost its economy while communicating their unique and historic heritage.

What is the current relationship between the public and private sectors?

Sharjah has always been clear when it comes to PPPs. The government has always been focused on doing what is best for the Emirate and having the private sector drive the economy. At the end of the day, PPPs are the key to success as it is important that the government does not compete with the private sector. We have one of the oldest PPPs in our seaport, with Gulftainer, and a PPP with Bee'ah. These partnerships demonstrate the importance of government and business working together seamlessly for mutual benefit.

What are your goals and priorities for the next 12 months?

Shurooq is excited to have the Sharjah Collection destinations, which we started with Kingfisher Lodge in Kalba and the Al Faya Lodge close to the city of Mleiha, which is being managed by the world-class hospitality management company “Mysk by Shaza." We will also be opening the Al Badayer Oasis, which is also under the Sharjah Collection brand. It will be a part of the desert experience. This is a natural oasis with the largest sand dunes in the UAE. Guests can stay in a village in the middle of the desert. The property has 10 tents, 21 rooms, an amphitheater, a mosque, and a fitness center. Later in 2019, we will officially inaugurate the Khorfakkan Beach project and the east coast in general, which will open up a treasure trove of natural landscapes, mountains, and beaches, with opportunities for numerous activities to tourists as well as residents. Future ventures with Shurooq are expected to enrich this portfolio as we proceed to diversify and attract new businesses and opportunities.