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Sharjah announces tourism and environmental projects

(WAM) / 4 August 2012

SHARJAH - Sharjah Media Centre, the official media entity of the government of Sharjah functioning under the umbrella of Sharjah Media Corporation, held its third Ramadan Majlis titled ‘The Promotion of Sharjah’s Cultural, Environmental and Tourism Sectors’.

Held under the patronage and in the presence of Shaikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah Media Corporation, the session highlighted the challenges faced by the eco-tourism industry. It also explored ways to attract more projects to Sharjah with the goal of driving the emirate’s tourism sector to its next growth trajectory.

Three major environmental and tourism projects were announced during the session, which included the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre, an enclosure for mountain dwelling animals covering an area of 800 meters in 4 meters, the first-of-its-kind exhibition centre that will remain open throughout the year showcasing predator birds and animals, and a purpose-built recreational water park project for families.

Moderated by Mohamed Jassim Al Suwaidi, the session was attended by His Excellency Mohammed Ali Al Noman, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority; His Excellency Marwan bin Jassim Al Serkal, Chief Executive Officer of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairman of Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA).

Al Noman opened the session by drawing attention to the challenges and opportunities faced by the tourism sector in Sharjah, particularly eco-tourism. He said tourism in Sharjah has positively outpaced the momentum of the previous years, thanks to the directives of His Highness Shaikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

Offering an overview of the current and future outlook of tourism in Sharjah, Al Noman pointed out that approximately 1.6 million tourists currently visit the emirate each year. Of these, close to 30 per cent come in from the East Asian and European countries, especially Germany and Russia. He contrasted this with 650,000 tourists who visited Sharjah in the year 2000, 40 per cent of whom were travelers from the Gulf countries.

Al Noman added that Sharjah currently records 80 per cent hotel occupancy. Predicting that the current figure of 9,000 rooms is set to rise to a total of 13,000 in the next few years, he said the growth would enable Sharjah to target new tourism markets in continents such as the Americas and Australia.

Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi highlighted Sharjah’s position as a pioneer in eco-tourism. She said that the Environment and Natural Reserves Authority undertakes major developmental projects that prioritise the provision of natural landscape and the migration of birds and other animals, besides raising awareness on the flora and fauna.

Al Suwaidi reiterated that the Wasit Reserve Rehabilitation project, which was converted from a landfill into a reserve, contains dozens of protected birds including the grey swan that has returned to the reserve after a hiatus of ten years.

She said: “International studies have proven that eco-tourism is one of the most attractive categories of tourism; it accounts more than 30 per cent of the growth in tourism worldwide. Sharjah’s harmonious diversity among the natural environment from the east and west coasts to the desert and from mountainous areas to the plains is demonstrated through some of its iconic environmental projects. For instance, the Al Hafya Educational Reserve Centre stands out by virtue of its location in a mountainous area that is devoid of any buildings.”

Marwan bin Jassim Al Serkal unveiled details about the Al Majaz Waterfront Entertainment Project, noting that it will be the first project to be opened by Shurooq. He stressed that Al Majaz Waterfront had been transformed from a park on the Khalid lagoon and currently features tourist attractions such as a musical fountain, fine dining restaurants, recreational facilities and venues for diverse events.

Al Serkal said: “Al Majaz Waterfront has been transformed into a leading tourist destination in Sharjah. It will attract more residents and visitors, which will have a positive impact on Sharjah’s economy.”

Al Serkal added that Sharjah has earmarked several new tourist-friendly areas for development. The Al Sabha district, for instance, will be shaped into a key ecological zone through maintaining its existing environmental life. The Maliha region has also been identified as a potential tourist attraction. In addition, a water park, which is being developed in cooperation with a local development company, will evolve into an entertainment and tourism centre for family and children featuring water slides up to a height of 30 metres.

Sharjah Media Centre’s third Ramadan Majlis concluded with Osama Samra, Director of Sharjah Media Centre, thanking the speakers for highlighting projects that are set to shape a bright future for the emirate of Sharjah. He also applauded the media for making the event a success with their esteemed presence.

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