A NICHE TO BEHOLD

Sharjah 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Niche desert lodges, water parks, huge new infrastructure projects, and a world-class architectural restoration project are but a few of the things putting Sharjah on the global tourism map.

Khalid Jasim Al Midfa
BIOGRAPHY
Khalid Jasim Al Midfa brings over 15 years of dynamic professional experience in various commercial, tourism, and economic fields in Sharjah. Under his leadership, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority has achieved many successes at both the local and international level, becoming a major cornerstone of the emirate’s tourism development efforts. Al Midfa has taken the emirate’s events and forums to an even higher standard. Further cementing his commitment to taking Sharjah’s tourism sector to new heights. Al Midfa continues to play a key roll in executing the new tourism strategy, which aims to attract 10 million visitors by 2021 with the help of SCTDA’s four strategic pillars.

Could you tell us about any recent operational changes or offerings SCTDA has on its plate?

There have been a number of recent developments in the emirate; Sharjah is the only Emirate that borders the other six, as it is centrally located and is the only one with access to both the east and west coast. The new Sharjah-Khorfakkan road, which opened in March 2019, has reduced the travel time between Sharjah and Khorfakkan from 90 to 45 minutes. His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, endorsed this project with the vision of one day connecting the east coast to central Sharjah, so the impact of the road will be invaluable regarding tourism opportunities. A large project with a huge investment, the new road cuts into the difficult mountainous terrain through five tunnels. Hospitality-wise, niche ecolodges are another great selling-point. Along the east coast in Kalba, there is the new Kalba Kingfisher Lodge, a unique venture beside ancient mangroves, not to mention the new lodge in one of our most enticing tourist attractions, Mleiha. Here, along with the Mleiha Archeological Center, we now have the Al Faya lodge, with five luxury rooms. Sharjah's newest family entertainment destination, the recently renovated Al Montazah, is a 126,000-sqm water park located in the heart of the city. Also, we are also very proud of the Rain Room and Heart of Sharjah. The former, designed by the Sharjah Art Foundation and the UAE-based Space Continuum Design Studio, is an immersive installation which allows visitors to walk through a downpour of continuous rain, 1,200 liters of self-cleaning recycled water, without getting wet. The Heart of Sharjah project, the largest historical preservation and restoration project in the region, has been registered in the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. It seeks to restore historical buildings by constructing new structures following traditional Sharjah architecture and transforming them into hotels, restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and markets.

How do you assess the recent global trends in tourism?

It is important to keep ahead of global trends and understand how they will work for us and which are beneficial to adopt. We have a strong hold on global tourism trends, using various methods such as digital marketing statistics and surveys plus intense consistent research involving tracking systems and making sure we keep up our connectivity with various forums and workshops, many held by ourselves and others that we attend in other countries.

How was 2019 compared to previous years in terms of tourism?

The tourism sector is different from others, as it is delicate and can be affected quickly, in just one day, for political or economic reasons. It is one of the most profitable sectors, but its delicacy comes with high risks.