Sharjah saw an eight percent growth in international tourist flow into the emirate in 2010, part of its push to boost tourism and compete with Dubai and Abu Dhabi and showing that tourism is growing throughout the UAE, not just in the largest emirates.
The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority said hotels and hotel apartments saw 1,556,885 guests, compared to 1,447,934 in 2009.
Hotel occupancy rates were up to 73 percent compared to 69 percent in 2009.
Proving that the emirate relies heavily on business travellers, particularly those travelling through Sharjah Airport, executive-friendly hotel apartments recorded 70 percent occupancy, compared to 64 percent the previous year.
Sharjah’s targeted crowd is mainly businesspeople, compared with families and traditional adventure seekers in Dubai, and a new spate of resort tourists expected for Ras al Khaimah, which will see the opening of a Waldorf property in 2012.
It will face stiff competition from Abu Dhab this year, with its newly renovated Al Bateen Business Airport, which has been making a further push for business travellers.
Abu Dhabi’s Tourism Authority is projecting a 15 percent growth in business related visitors to the emirate in 2011, rising by a huge 200,000 on to 1.5 million.
ADTA estimates that last year, business travellers accounted for 72 percent, or 1.3 of the 1.8mn who stayed in the emirate’s 115 hotels and hotel apartments.
“Business related tourism will continue to deliver the lion’s share of demand in 2011,” said Lawrence Franklin, ADTA’s Director for Strategy Policy.
Cementing its status, Sharjah saw its first branded hotel and suites, the Ramada Sharkah, open in January.
So far, “we’ve had the usual business – businessmen, airport crews,” its general manager, Tamas Fazekas, told Arabian Business. “The majority of business is from GCC countries. Our occupancy was 60 percent GCC and 20 percent European.”
The total number of room nights in Sharjah’s hotels and hotel apartments rose to 1,537,765 in 2010.
Though AD is glitzier – with Yas Island providing easy distraction for business travellers – “Sharjah is a destination for GCC travelers,” Fazekas said. “We’re fully convinced there’s a market here for a good branded hotel.”