Sharjah will stake its claim to the halal travel and tourism market at this year’s World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition, which takes place in Abu Dhabi from 19-21 October. The world’s halal travel and tourism market is currently estimated to be worth US$135 billion (AED 496b) and is forecast to grow to US$200 billion (AED 735b) by 2020. Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), which recently confirmed plans to invest AED 5 billion (US$ 1.4b) in tourism development projects by the year 2018, is a sponsor of the event.
Sharjah is fast developing into a key halal tourism hub and the emirate’s ongoing investment in tourism, cultural and Islamic resources makes it ideally positioned to drive future growth. Last year, Sharjah announced nearly AED 1.5 billion (US$ 408 million) worth of projects related to its year as Islamic Culture Capital alone. The projects includes a wide variety of Sharjah institutions and tourist attractions including new universities, monuments, Islamic parks, traditional markets, museums and libraries.
Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021, a tourism development strategy announced by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) earlier this year, targets family tourism, Muslim tourists and those seeking art and culture. According to the SCTDA, 70 per cent of Sharjah’s tourists are families, with a high percentage of Muslim visitors. Sharjah plans to attract more than 10 million tourists to the emirate by year 2021.
Against the backdrop of Sharjah’s investments in art, history and Islamic culture, there are large-scale resort developments aimed squarely at halal tourism and other complimentary market segments. In all, about 30 new hotels are expected to open in the emirate over the next few years catering to business, budget travel and luxury travel segments, including new properties under the management of Accor, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and GHM Hotels.
In May, the construction of a new US$100 million (AED 367m) art and culture themed 5-star luxury beachfront hotel and resort, the Majlis Grand Mercure Sharjah, was announced, to be built over an 12,000 square metre area adjacent to Sharjah’s corniche. To be managed by global hotel operator Accor, the property is being themed in a contemporary style reflecting the cultures of the region with a focus on Islamic art and culture.
Shurooq is building the AED100 million (US$ 27m) Al Bait Hotel in the Souk Al Shanasiyah heritage site in the Heart of Sharjah, one of the region’s largest historical preservation and restoration projects.
On Sharjah’s east coast, Shurooq is developing Al Jabal Resort, The Chedi Khorfakkan, a luxury 5-star resort, and Kalba Eco-Tourism project incorporating a waterfront development with a botanical garden, picnic park, camping site, shopping mall and a hotel.
Meanwhile, 65 kilometres off the UAE coastline on Sir Bu Nuair island, Shurooq is developing a AED 500 million (US$ 136m) eco-tourism project be completed during the next three years, including a 70- to 100-room luxury hotel with 70 serviced apartments.
World Halal Travel Summit & Exhibition (WHTS15) is expected to be attended by Shariah compliant banks, hoteliers, developers, business angels, venture capitalists, investors, lawyers, and key decision makers from all over the world.