Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) is working on master plans to develop eco-tourism destinations within the emirate, especially “green” hotels in Khorfakkan and Kalba, Emirates 24/7 can reveal.
“We are working with other governmental entities in Sharjah to develop eco-tourism destinations within the emirate and not just Khorfakhan. Careful studies are currently taking place to master plan areas within the emirate for such purposes by maintaining a sensitive balance to save the environment and the habitat and also defining commercial areas for development,” Shurooq Chief Executive Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal said.
“Sharjah’s east coast offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in the UAE – sandy golden beaches, steep rocky mountains and crystal clear waters, ideal for those who enjoy active pursuits such as swimming, snorkeling and hiking, and one of the things we are currently looking at is how to maximise on this natural richness.”
Al Sarkal said the authority wants to make Khorfakkan as a waterfront and a family sports tourism destination.
“In addition, we are in the process of finalizing and approving all the plans for developing the Khorfakkan Cornice, which will surely help in attracting more visitors and tourists.”
Shurooq is currently fast tracking two hotels — one on the east coast of Khorfakhan, which is in the advanced design stage and one within the city of Sharjah. It also plans to make Kalba as an eco-tourism destination with many resorts and facilities.
The authority was established by Emiri Decree No. 2 of 2009 to evaluate and follow-up on tourism-related infrastructure projects in the emirate.
Sharjah is expecting the number of tourists to increase to 3.5 million by 2012. And so to achieve the target, Shurooq is participating in local, regional and international tourism events such as ITB Berlin to promote Sharjah as a premier tourist destination.
It is also working with international agencies, such as the Thai Board of Investment, and a number of agencies in Singapore and in many other countries to promote Sharjah as a business, investment and tourism destination.
“We will also continue with the collaboration of other government and private entities in Sharjah to increase the number and improve the quality of hotels and other tourism attractions in the emirate in the hopes of not only attracting new visitors to the emirate, but also encouraging those who do visit to keep returning.”
Sharjah is already attracting visitors through organizing international and events such as Sharjah Light Festival, Sharjah International Book Fair, Sharjah Water Festival, Sharjah Biennial, F1 Grand Prix and many others.
“We are working on developing further destinations such as Heart of Sharjah, Al Majaz Waterfront and other projects which will help attract tourists from all over the world.”
Statistics released by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) in December revealed that the emirate had registered an eight per cent growth in international tourist flow in 2010 with hotel occupancy rate reaching 73 per cent compared to 69 per cent in 2009.
The number of hotels and hotel apartments in Sharjah touched 107 (45 hotels and 62 hotel apartments) with the number of rooms increasing to 8,585 (4,661 hotel rooms and 3,924 hotel apartment rooms). The statistics showed an increase in the occupancy rate in the emirate's hotels and hotel apartments.
Asked if international companies had shown inclination to develop resorts/ hotels/ water theme parks in Sharjah,
Al Sarkal said a number of companies had shown interest, but things were only in the discussion phase.
“We are still largely in the discussion phases and it will be announced soon,” he added.