Visitors at the Sharjah Stand at Arabian Travel Market 2015 at Dubai World Trade Centre and Exhibition Hall. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Sharjah is seeking to be a hub for halal and family tourism and hopes to attract 10 million tourists by 2021, according to Mohammad Ali Al No’man, Chairmand of Sharjah Commerce and Toursim Development Authority (SCTDA).

“There is potential for a boom in halal and family tourism in Sharjah as in 2014,” he told Gulf News. “70 per cent of the tourists are families and 35 per cent are coming from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Muslim countries.”

Halal tourism is a destination that abides by the rules of Islam. “Since most of Sharjah hotels abide by the rules of Islam, where alcohol is not allowed to be served, as well as there are separate pools, gym and spa facilities for men and women, the emirate has great potential to be a favourite tourist destination for Muslims,” Al No’man said.

This will be done by providing world-class tourism facilities and capabilities that meet the family and Muslims tourists’ needs and by offering distinct packages and offers specially designed for families.

He also said that an innovative tourism approach is core to Sharjah’s strategy. “We aim to improve the tourist experience through the provision of innovative solutions,” he said.

Al No’man said that SCTDA will launch Sharjah International Conference for Family Tourism by the end of this year. “This conference will provide a platform to share insights, experiences and best practices in the family tourism in the global tourism market overall,” he said.

In 2014, Sharjah was named as the Islamic Culture Capital by ministers of culture at an Organisation of Islamic Countries Conference in the Azerbaijan capital in Baku.

According to Sharjah Tourism vision 2021, the emirate aims to attract 10 million tourists by this date, expecting a steady pace of growth about 8.8 per cent per annum in the coming years.

He said that the government has already approved 30 licences for developing three to four star hotels by increasing this number of hotel rooms in Sharjah from 10,000 to 13,000 by 2017.

However, more hotels will be developed to increase the number of hotel rooms up to 15,000 in 2021, he said.

The total number of Sharjah over stayers reached 2.016 million and it is aimed to grow up to 3.9 million in 2021, according to the strategy, according to Al No’man.

Currently there are 110 hotels in Sharjah that range from five to two stars with 60 per cent occupancy rate. By 2021, the occupancy rate will by increased up to 70 per cent, according to the emirate’s tourism strategy 2021, he said.

Sharjah’s components, costs, leisure, heritage and exhibition will be attributing to achieve the emirate’s strategy. SCTDA will launch Sharjah International Conference for Family Tourism by the end of this year, Al No’man said.