MALLS

Sharjah 2020 | TOURISM | B2B

New malls around the Emirate offer a revolutionary way of reshaping communities through consumer solidarity.

Frederick Soulban
FREDERICK SOULBAN
General Manager
Centro Sharjah, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation
INDERJEET BUBBER
Director
Mega Mall

What is your outlook on the hospitality sector in Sharjah?

FREDERICK SOULBAN Sharjah has always played an important role in the tourism sector of the UAE. Many hotels have opened up, whether at the end of last year or the beginning of this one. The city of Sharjah is growing, and the government is undertaking plenty of projects to expand its offerings to tourists and investors, and we believe there will be renewed focus on Sharjah in the coming years as many hotels are in the pipeline.

INDERJEET BUBBER As you know, organized retail was not historically highlighted in Sharjah. There are a lot of stand-alone, individualized retail spots. There are many factors dominating organized retail facilities, such as parking and accessibility. Mega Mall started in 2002 and has a long legacy of creating new benchmarks for retail destinations in the Emirates. Even our location was revolutionary, as it was initially outside of the city, but in the direction that our chairman saw the population of Sharjah moving. We are now the mall that reaches the public for its everyday shopping needs. Indeed, community malls fill a daily need, and we were the first in those terms. We have been the most successful retail destination for retailers. We measure our success by how much money our retailers make. Operationally, we are well-organized. A major challenge is controlling the traffic. We want to do our jobs the right way and safely. We take the utmost care to always be safe and follow legal frameworks. Our visitor numbers have recently changed, with a small decline in spending. However, we have not seen a decline in customer footfall. These conversion rates in retail are impacting the overall market. Still, we are stable and strong because of the loyalty in our customer base that is repetitive. There has not been a change in disposable incomes, but spending power has changed.

What recent new business offerings do you have, and what have been some of your recent challenges?

FS We are currently offering an instant 20% discount on the best available rates (BAR) for all new bookings during the summer season for Rotana Rewards Select members. These are our loyal members whose guests, by enrolling in the program, will be able to use the discount. The offer is available on our website. As a more general rule, most hotels these days are being challenged by a drop in daily average rates. To push back against this, we have relied on our loyal clients and unique location to maintain our selling strategies and market ranking in comparison to competitors based on the STR figures.

IB 2018 saw slightly more correction, with things being done cautiously. Landlords and retailers are now speaking the same language. Everyone wants to be successful. I see 2019 finishing optimistically, and we have already seen positive trends. Sentiment is growing in the market. Corrections that were made in 2018 are already reflected in 2019. This is all leading into 2020, which will have a significant impact on everyone's growth. We are all seeing the positive trend in real estate sales, tourism, retail, and hospitality, for example. Everything is connected, and it is all picking up. Trends are changing, as things become more digitalized. Shopping and retail have taken a more digital shape in the market. There are a lot of retail combinations that have been accepted because customers are more educated. People know what they are buying and what value they expect from money. Customer education and experience have also changed, and expectations from every operator are much higher. Therefore, it is about how one addresses one's business and adapts to the new changes in the market. It is about surviving, sustaining, and being successful again.