Friday 18 September 2020

Sharjah discusses future of sustainability in tourism

SHARJAH, November 20, 2019

By Kim Thomson

A number of hospitality industry experts gathered in the UAE this week for the sixth edition of the Sharjah Hospitality Forum, which was held on November 18 at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre.

Themed ‘Sustainable Tourism creates Business Opportunities’, the forum highlighted the importance of consolidating the concept of sustainability in the tourism sector, in addition to discussing the developments of the sector under the umbrella of sustainable development to support local and global tourism.

The forum aimed to provide the tourism sector with the global industry expertise and knowledge needed to achieve future growth, thereby enabling the sector to keep pace with global sustainable goals. A series of interactive sessions conducted by local and global experts on the importance of sustainable tourism in supporting businesses and ways to enhance the sustainable growth of the travel and tourism sector were also featured.

Speaking to TTN, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, chairman of SCTDA, said: "The annual event has been designed to enhance the efforts of all tourism industry stakeholders in Sharjah, with an aim to further improve the standards of tourism services offered and to enhance the overall tourism experience. The tourism sector is a very dynamic one and is a big contributor to the emirate's economy."

"Looking at the way the UAE is moving and the way the governments are investing in the infrastructure and other things, we see that there is a very big potential for the future of the tourism industry here in the UAE, especially in the Sustainable Tourism segment, which is a hot topic around the world and at this year's forum. The UAE has a lot of fillers in place that allows it to expand further and we want to ensure that we don’t cause damage to our national identity, to our environment and ecosystem, as well as create an awareness within all we do for the people working in the sector and for us as the government that creates legislation," he added.

According to Al Midfa, Sharjah will see a 50 per cent increase in hotel rooms over the next five years, as well as major infrastructure developments such as the airport expansion.

"We are investing a lot in making Sharjah accessible to everyone from different parts of the world," Al Midfa said.

"Sharjah has always had that authentic experience and this is what people are looking for now. They don’t want to see artificial cities; they want to see something from our culture, tradition and values. We see a lot of growth in this area," he noted.

Supporting the need for a more cultural experience are local startups such as Meet the Locals - a team of local Emirati volunteers and certified tour guides who are interested in sharing their culture with visitors and expats through carefully curated events, tours and packages. Other developments include a 16-sq-km Safari Park opening up in Al Dhaid, the central region of Sharjah.

The event also featured panel discussions with hoteliers from across the emirate, who approached the concept of sustainability in tourism with great positivity.

Ashraf Nabih, general manager, Hilton Sharjah, said: "It is great that the emirate itself is playing a major role in leading this sector of sustainability. We, at Hilton Sharjah and as a hotel group, have come to understand the need for us to play a big part in this drive and we do so by interacting with the community and creating activities in the hotel to support the initiative. A major outcome of our efforts is that all Hiltons are now plastic free.”

Dina Kaloti, cluster general manager, Aryana Hotel and Sahara Beach Resort & Spa, said: "We have been working with Sharjah Tourism to develop a number of sustainability initiatives, focussing more on the social responsibility aspect, as well as engaging with the local community and local markets to raise awareness. An increasing number of hotel guests are making concious, eco-friendly decisions when picking hotels and activities, hence it is important to cater to these needs and also be a part of the drive to preserve the environment around us." - TradeArabia News Service


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