Muscat: Some 135,334 tourists from Oman visited Sharjah in 2012, indicating the emirate's appeal for Omanis. The 2012 figure has increased twice, compared with the previous year, said Tareeq Saeed Allay Al Naqbi, manager of the media department at the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).
Speaking at a workshop held here recently as part of a road show to showcase Sharjah as a preferred destination and to interact with travel agents in Oman, Al Naqbi stated, "The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) road shows, which begin in Oman, have helped the emirate over the years to reach out to the burgeoning regional tourism market and are part of a strategy to expand Sharjah's regional presence and strengthen its cooperation with its Gulf neighbours."
Biggest tourism market
Al Naqbi added, "In fact, the Gulf is our biggest tourism market, along with Europe. Every year, Sharjah receives hundreds of thousands of visitors from neighbouring GCC states. The emirate received an estimated 618,487 GCC tourists last year, which is 36 per cent of the total number of 1,739,240 visitors Sharjah received during 2012."
He further noted, "It is expected that the road show will succeed in tapping a large portion of the huge Omani outbound market, based on the value proposition that Sharjah offers as a destination. Such road shows help us to showcase Sharjah's richly diversified and popular tourism experience, which is increasingly luring visitors from across the region and around the globe. Over the past few years, Oman has emerged as one of the most important and promising tourism markets for Sharjah—the second-largest market after Saudi Arabia—with the emirate attracting an increasing number of families and other travellers. Sharjah hopes to build on this growing interest to offer a distinct tourism and cultural experience to Omani tourists and other GCC visitors."
Sharjah's popular airline Air Arabia has partnered with the SCTDA for the Gulf Cooperation Council campaign. Aditya Varma, senior business development manager at Air Arabia, acknowledged, "Oman is well connected with Sharjah and the rest of the UAE both by road and by air, particularly as a result of the convenience and affordable connectivity offered by Air Arabia, which flies to both Muscat and Salalah, the vibrant city in the south. The airline offers 14 weekly flights to Muscat and two weekly flights to Salalah. The operations to Salalah will be scaled up to three weekly flights in May and, finally, to four flights a week by August this year. Additional flights will continue beyond the Salalah Tourism Festival period."
At the event, the top five travel agents were given awards: Travel City, Al Hasahr Tourism and Travels, House of Travel, Dubai Travels, and Majan International Agencies Travel and Tourism.
The SCTDA's itinerary covers Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait, according to SCTDA Director General Khalid Jasim Al Midfa.
Over the past several years, Sharjah has garnered recognition as the cultural capital of the Arab and Islamic world. It has regularly hosted road shows in Oman and across the region in an attempt to tap into the massive and fast-expanding Gulf tourism market and to expand its cultural and economic cooperation with its Gulf neighbours.