Cosmopolitan City with a Coastal Charm
Ajman has been quietly carving its place on the world tourism map with an intriguing mix of leisure and business attractions.
Curiosity Middle East Magazine talks to HH Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Chairman of Ajman Tourism Development Department to find out what is going on in this coastal town that is compelling travellers to put it on their itinerary
What are the unique selling points of Ajman as a destination?
Firstly, I would like to thank Curiosity for eagerness to conduct this interview and hope the newly-published magazine would enhance efforts to stabilize all UAE emirates on the world tourism map. As for your question, I would say the march of progress has changed the landscape of most neighborhoods across the UAE, not only Ajman’s. The future looks bright for Ajman. And, as an up and coming area within the UAE, Ajman is attracting major developers who are keen to tap into the emirate’s fantastic natural draws. Our main selling points vary from destination hotels to marinas and shopping centers, in addition to historic attractions which are all part of the changing landscape of Ajman.
How does Ajman wish to position itself on the tourism map in the next five years?
Ajman is conveniently located within a four-hour flight of one-third of the world’s population. Ajman is close to several major international airports; just a 15-minute journey from Sharjah International Airport, 30 minutes from Dubai International Airport, and just over two hours from Abu Dhabi International Airport. All three are global hubs. Ajman is also planning its own airport, to be situated in Manama on the emirate’s eastern border. Ajman Tourism Development Department (ATDD); Ajman Government’s tourism arm for tourism development, investment and promotion, is working on two scales; firstly, its own strategic plan, and, second, Ajman Vision 2021. According to Ajman Vision, ATDD has many targets to achieve via effective working plans which are being followed up by me.
How do you see Ajman benefiting from Dubai Expo 2020?
It may be considered as a fact that Ajman’s pace of development was slower than that of the wealthier neighbors who changed dramatically during the past three decades and many areas in Ajman remained untouched. But with Dubai’s boom, things started changing, especially in 2004. It had a ripple effect on Ajman, which also opened up ownership of land to foreigners and fuelled a parallel growth. Slowly, high-rise buildings mushroomed in the emirate and old residential neighborhoods that were part of the city centre started to disappear.
In 2012, HH Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Ajman, issued an Emiri decree ordering the establishment of ATDD which aims to highlight the importance of tourist
attractions available in the emirate of Ajman, and lay down strategic plans for tourism promotion, locally, regionally and internationally, via many promotional tools and campaigns. ATDD also works on organizing and developing the tourism industry inside the emirate of Ajman, improving the potentials and services of tourism facilities with the aim of increasing national income.
Within this context, many results were achieved, and development, especially of the tourism-related sectors is now sustainable. And now that Dubai Expo 2020 is not so far, I would affirm the readiness of tourism installations in the emirate to attract and host many activities serving this major international event. Work is going on regarding investment in facilities and infrastructure projects with the aim of achieving sustainable development of the various tourism sectors in Ajman.
Why has Ajman focused so much on the luxury segment when the region as a whole is talking about budget hotels?
Ajman’s forward-thinking Ruler and governing bodies have helped it become a leading leisure destination. Ajman’s rich cultural inheritance and the customs of its society are the result of thousands of years of varying influences. Ajman is a sun-seeker’s paradise and a modern city that embraces its rich Arabian heritage and timeless cultural traditions.
From luxurious beachfront hotels to well-equipped city centre apartments, there is a wide range of accommodation. I want to assert that much of the emirate’s activities are concentrated around the Corniche, so beachside hotels are deservedly popular. And, although more luxurious options can be found further along the coast, a number of affordable hotels and apartments in the heart of the city are ideally located for sightseeing and shopping.
What are your key source markets?
According to our latest statistics, still Germany, Russia and the CIS markets, followed by the GCC and other Arab countries, represent the main source markets for the UAE emirate of Ajman. ATDD is planning to probe the possibility of attracting visitors from other regions during the year 2015.
How was tourism in Ajman affected by CIS crisis?
This year has been relatively slower. It was hard to gauge the impact with the statistics from summer, since most Russian travelers are seen visiting the UAE during the winter. Our ATDD team was there at Leisure Moscow and achieved great results, together with representatives of the hospitality sector in Ajman. But while the luxury travel segment is not expected to be hugely affected by the crisis, middle-class travelers are more mindful of their expenditure and even many Russian expatriates living in Dubai are making holiday plans in their home country. The slowdown has been felt at some hotels, and we are seeing a notable decline in Russian tourist numbers this season, ranging between 45 and 50 per cent in the fourth quarter compared to same period last year.
What new markets are you targeting to overcome the shortfalls from CIS?
ATDD has its own promotion plan for 2015 and working now with our partners from the hospitality sector in Ajman to decide on more locations which we can target during 2015.
When do you expect Ajman International Airport to be ready and fully operational? What will be the growth in tourism?
The Dh2.1 billion international airport is expected to welcome its first flight in 2018. It will be built in Al Manama on the emirate’s eastern border. It is expected to lift the economy in terms of trade and tourism. Studies are still underway with concerned authorities to determine an accurate number on the effect of tourism on Ajman economy. The location of the Manama Airport would directly serve not only Ajman, but also other emirates; Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah.
What new tourism attractions are taking shape in Ajman?
ATDD Development and Research Section is working now on Ajman Tourism Investment Map, the first of its kind in the emirate. The project targets the development of a roadmap for tourism development in the emirate of Ajman in accordance with Ajman Vision 2021. It will present the current tourism scene in Ajman, focus on analyzing the current and future infrastructure needs and evaluate the expected effect of tourism on local economy.
The four-phased project would result in a realistic map on the potentials and opportunities of tourism investment in Ajman in the coming five years. ATDD’s government strategic partners in this project are Ajman Land and Property Department, Ajman Municipality and Planning Department, Ajman Real-Estate Regulatory Agency (ARRA), Ajman Port and Customs, Ajman Free Zone Authority (AFZA), Ajman Chamber and Ajman Department of Economic Development. The project will include a survey on sectors of hospitality, entertainment, food and beverage, and transport in Ajman.
ATDD cooperates with all concerned government and non-government authorities with the aim of coming out with realistic results that support current efforts for tourism development in the emirate. Also, other newly-launched projects include the Dh100 million Ajman Marina; the largest tourism project yet launched in the emirate, with the area designed for international pedigree sports and entertainment events. It will also include cycling and running tracks. Also, do not forget to include Al Zorah project, which is expected to strengthen Ajman’s tourism sector. I think Ajman in the past few years has worked well on tourism. Many hotels are rising and operational today, especially from the Corniche side.
What about ATDD marketing strategies?
Our promotion plan has two main targets; namely tourism and investment. Within the UAE, our working strategy is to perform in an integral, not a competitive way. This is one of the stable strategies adopted by the Ajman Government. It is applied within the government departments and between each department and its strategic partners. Within this context, Ajman’s goal to increase tourist competitiveness and win a wider tourist market share serve the whole benefit of the UAE.
ATDD marketing plans target both the local community and foreign visitors. Both segments should be always satisfied in order to guarantee a sustainable tourism development. Among many ideas, the redevelopment of the emirate’s waterfront is one of its top strategic priorities over the next 20 years and key to putting Ajman on the map. Also, adding green space to the emirate would encourage residents to lead a healthier life. Improved roads, more international brand stores and restaurants and fewer traffic jams are some of the ways life has improved for people living in Ajman in recent years.
Why do you think Ajman is a unique tourism experience?
The emirate of Ajman is a unique tourism experience because it combines the wonders of our history and archaeology with the recreational, ecological and religious attractions. Ajman’s unique diversity combined to attract investments which are fully supported by the Ajman Government. For us, it is all about originality. We are a quiet city, it is peaceful here and there is a lot of history and heritage. Also, the beaches are some of the best in the UAE and from a business point of view, there are a lot of investment opportunities. A modest size and lack of heavy traffic make it incredibly easy to get around Ajman, whether on foot or by vehicle.
Ajman’s golden coastline and lush green parks are perfect for family get-togethers and relaxing strolls. Step back in time at Ajman Museum where an 18th century fort houses archaeological gems. Also, from modern malls to authentic souks, Ajman has plenty of shopping opportunities to enjoy. Discover the rugged landscape of the Hajar Mountains in Masfout. Relaxed and peaceful, Manama is a lush green oasis apart from Ajman’s fast-paced, modern city. In the city of Ajman, there are plenty of reasons to leave the beach – one being to discover Ajman’s sporting attractions. There is an incredible range of rides, games and attractions in Ajman to keep you on the go.