Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Executive Council, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) hosted the sixth edition of the Sharjah Hospitality Forum today (Monday, November 18, 2019)
The Forum was held at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Center in Sharjah, under the theme ‘Sustainable Tourism creates Business Opportunities’, in the presence of local and global experts to explore new horizons, in order to shape the future of the tourism sector from a sustainability perspective. Furthermore, the initiative forms part of SCTDA’s ongoing efforts, in line with the vision and guidance of the emirate’s wise leadership, to drive further development of the local tourism sector’s infrastructure and utilities, as it continues to attract entrepreneurs and investors from around the world with an array of lucrative opportunities.
The latest edition of the Forum was held at a time when Sharjah is witnessing rapid growth across its various economic sectors. The emirate’s tourism and hospitality industry has emerged as one of the main drivers of economic growth and diversification, marked by a remarkable growth in the field of infrastructure development, and is currently attracting numerous investors, partners, businessmen and interested parties to explore opportunities. The government of Sharjah’s efforts to achieve the Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, which aims to attract 10 million visitors to the emirate by 2021, has added further momentum to the growth of the sector. Against this backdrop, the agenda of the sixth Sharjah Hospitality Forum featured extensive discussions on ways to enhance the role of Sustainable Tourism in advancing the development of tourism services and offerings; and in building capacities in line with the requirements of future trends and developments.
This year’s edition of the forum opened with a speech by H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCTDA, highlighting the importance of further developing the tourism, hospitality and travel sector through the adoption of innovative approaches and strategies with a focus on sustainability, and how this will enhance the emirate's position on the world tourism map.
The Chairman was followed by HE Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Saleh, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade Affairs, who noted that the tourism sector, which has become one of the most important drivers of growth in the region in general and the UAE in particular, supports the global economy and serves as a major engine for sustainable development, culturally and economically. During his speech, Al Saleh also added that Sustainable Tourism is one of the pillars adopted by the UAE to serve the goals of sustainable development goals of the United Nations, as it is also a vital sector that significantly contributes to the national economy. The contribution of the travel and tourism sector amounted to 11.1 per cent of the GDP in 2018, which is equivalent to AED 164 billion, he added.
HE Al Saleh’s speech was followed by the first panel discussion, titled "Sustainable Tourism as a Tool for Creating Opportunities and a Standard for Building Profitable and Responsible Products." The session, which was chaired by tourism expert Dr. Yolanda Perdomo, was attended by Ahmed Al-Qaseer, Chief Operating Officer, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq); Prof. Urs Wagenseil, Head of Competence Centre of Tourism at the University of Lucerne for the Applied Sciences and Arts; and Hazem Al Sawaf, Director of Marketing and Communication Department at the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. The second panel discussion titled “Develop the Capabilities of Sustainable Tourism,” provided an interactive platform to explore key business perspectives that enable different segments of society such as women, startups and young entrepreneurs to enter the market. It featured the participation of several dignitaries, including Majid Al Suwaidi, Manager of Overseas Promotion Department at SCTDA; Saeed Alnofeli, Programs Manager, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center, Sheraa; Dina Kaloti, Cluster General, Aryana Hotel; and Ashraf Nabih, General Manager, Hilton Sharjah.
HE Al Midfa explained that the idea behind choosing ‘Sustainable Tourism creates Business Opportunities’ as the theme of the sixth edition of the Hospitality Forum stems from the necessity to consolidate the concept and practices of sustainability in the tourism sector, which is at the forefront of global trends. He pointed out that the Forum has succeeded in bringing together local and international experts and leaders to discuss ideal development strategies that would enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the tourism sector, in addition to exploring new opportunities to support tourism and economic activity. These include increasing the number of visitors and improving the experience for tourists coming to the Emirate of Sharjah, which boasts competitive components and distinctive landmarks that offer exceptional tourism experiences."
HE Al Midfa added: “Sharjah today has become a distinguished global tourism destination, thanks to the unlimited support of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, who has enabled us to put all the necessary resources and efforts into upgrading Sharjah's position in the world tourism landscape and strengthening its presence in various international forums. The success of this Forum reflects the commitment of our partners and stakeholders from Sharjah’s public and private sectors to continue developing and improving the tourist experience. The Forum also contributed to the achievement of the goal set by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) with its focus on Sustainable Tourism planning, which contributes to enhancing social, economic and environmental benefits for communities.”
“We look forward to continuing the hosting of Sharjah Hospitality Forum, which is an ideal platform to strengthen cooperation among entrepreneurs, investors and partners to draw out ambitious development plans that are necessary to uplift the tourism and hospitality sector in Sharjah and to attract investments to this sector to ensure sustainability of resources and competencies. Furthermore, we aim to improve the quality of tourism services and facilities based on innovation and global best practices to deliver a distinctive tourism experience, in line with the National Strategy for Innovation, which establishes a comprehensive framework for the integration of innovation in various sectors in the UAE,” Al Midfa concluded.
On the sidelines of the Forum, two workshops were held under the theme of Sustainable Tourism. The first one titled “Popular Business Model and Investment Opportunities in the Sustainable Tourism” was presented by Yolanda Perdomo, a tourism industry expert. The second session titled “Applications of Sustainable Tourism Accreditation Plans and Certificates,” was led by Prof Urs Wagenseil, Member of Institute of Management Tourism, and Head of Competence Centre of Tourism, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences & Arts.