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Rising competition stalls Sharjah tourism growth

Expansion of air services by flydubai coupled with increased hotel inventories and lower rates in Dubai affected emirate

Tourists disembark from a tour boat at Buhairah Corniche
Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News archive
Tourists disembark from a tour boat at Buhairah Corniche. While tourism in Dubai grew onbetter infrastructure and lower room rates, Sharjah could not capitalise on its strengths.
Gulf News

Dubai: Tourist arrivals in Sharjah remained flat last year, with the number of hotel guests reaching 1,562,869 — a slight increase over 2010, according to figures provided by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).

Of these, 843,676 guests stayed in hotels, up from 774,651 in 2010.

However, the number of guests staying in hotel apartments fell to 719,193 in 2011, down from 782,234 the year before.

The region's tourism industry had suffered from the Arab Spring that affected tourism in Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Bahrain and Libya.

While tourism in Dubai grew due to better infrastructure and lower room rates, neighbouring Sharjah could not capitalise on its strengths.

The occupancy of hotels and hotel apartments has been put at 74 per cent in 2011, slightly lower than Dubai's 75.4 per cent.

Sharjah, the UAE's third-largest emirate, has 104 hotels and hotel apartments including 47 hotels and 57 serviced apartments with a capacity of 9,123 rooms including 5,191 hotel rooms and 3,932 hotel apartment rooms.

Mohammad Ali Abdullah Al No'man, Director-General, SCTDA, said that Sharjah is working to attract more tourism investments and expects to increase the number of hotel rooms to 12,000 over the next four years, with a focus on five star and three star hotels and beach resorts.

Complete cooperation

"We will ensure complete cooperation with all government and private agencies to ensure investment environment is safe and things go off smoothly and swiftly for everyone concerned," he said.

The total number of room nights in the hotels and hotel apartments rose to 1,804,530 in 2011, with hotel room nights accounting for 1,026,934 and hotel apartment room nights accounting for 777,596.

This can be compared to 1,537,765 room nights in 2010 with 806,401 hotel rooms and 731,364 hotel apartment rooms, or a 17 per cent increase from 2010.

This has happened despite the growth in the number of passengers passing through Sharjah International Airport and the expansion of services by Sharjah's own airline, Air Arabia, which is witnessing strong competition from flydubai.

Tour operators say the expansion of air services by flydubai, coupled with increased hotel inventories and lower rates in Dubai might have affected Sharjah's tourism industry.

"The new supplies in hotel room inventory in Dubai have helped the tour operators to offer better rates which might have helped lots of tourists to stay in Dubai hotels which might have an effect on the hotels of neighbouring emirates," Kulwant Singh, chief executive officer of Lama Tours, told Gulf News.

"We have witnessed an increase in the number of tourists to the UAE, especially Dubai. However, the hotel statistics of Sharjah reflect the fact that it could not attract more visitors."


Dubai last week said more than 9.3 million guests stayed in 74,613 rooms in its 575 hotels and hotel apartments - taking the total number to 10.8 million in Dubai and Sharjah.

This is slightly more than one per cent of the 980 million tourists who travelled worldwide last year.

This year, more than one billion tourists are expected to travel globally, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

"By the end of 2012, one seventh of the world's population will have crossed international borders as tourists in a single year," UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai told delegates at the International Travel Bourse (ITB) which concludes today in Berlin.

This "extraordinary number" will contribute to more jobs, higher income possibilities and countless opportunities for development, so critical at this time of economic uncertainty, he added.