Hotels in Sharjah are currently reporting 100 per cent occupancy driven by an influx of family tourists, especially from Saudi Arabia, according to Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA). With schools in the Gulf countries closed for vacation, the Emirate has attracted large number of families from across the region due its growing popularity as a family and cultural tourist destination.
Latest available figures from SCTDA show that guest numbers from Saudi Arabia are encouraging so far this year, with 42,150 guests arriving during the months of January and February alone. In January this year, Sharjah’s hospitality sector received 28,861 Saudi guests, an increase of 4 per cent over 27,741 in January 2014. February witnessed a higher growth rate of 30 per cent with 13,289 guests against 10,200 during the same period last year.
Family tourists from Saudi Arabia constituted 15 per cent of guests in Sharjah’s hotel establishments in January 2015 compared to 13 per cent in January last year. In February, the share went up from 6 per cent in 2014 to 9 per cent in 2015. Visitors from Arab countries account for nearly one-third of Sharjah’s hospitality guests. According to SCTDA, their numbers witnessed 10 per cent growth in 2014 compared to 6 per cent the previous year.
Sharjah’s hospitality establishments received 2,036,014 guests in 2014, which was an increase of 3.4 per cent over the previous year when the Emirate attracted 1,969,224 guests. Visitors from Arab countries accounted for 28 per cent of total hotel guests and approximately half of the total hotel apartment guests.
Sharjah has been making remarkable strides as a leading family tourism destination in the region. In recognition for its contribution to Arab tourism, the Arab Tourism Organisation has awarded Sharjah the title Capital of Arab Tourism for 2015, strengthening the Emirate’s position on the regional and international tourism map.
Sharjah Arab Tourism Capital award highlights the Emirate’s rich traditions and its strong cultural heritage that have contributed to create a modern tourism industry. It also reflects the diversity the Emirate offers in terms of leisure and retail sector and its expertise to host world class festivals throughout the year.
Positioning itself as a world class tourist destination for the entire family, Sharjah organises year-round activities and festivals to showcase the best of Arabic culture and heritage. The Emirate is renowned for a wide range of much acclaimed festivals and events, including the Sharjah Light Festival, the Sharjah Water Festival and the Sharjah International Book Fair that draw families from around the region and beyond.
Sharjah is also home to heritage locations such as the Heart of Sharjah which features a number of historical sites. The Heart of Sharjah has been registered in the tentative list of World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). As a beacon of knowledge and culture in the region, Sharjah is also known for some of the most outstanding museums in the Arab world, which have become major tourist draws.
Apart from the cultural hotspots and outstanding museums, Sharjah offers family friendly beaches on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah’s east coast is particularly popular for water sports, snorkeling and diving, and families have the option to camp on the beach or stay in any of the motels and hotels that line the coast.