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ITB Berlin News 2019 - Day 3 Edition

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18 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

18 EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW Abu Dhabi reports growth in cultural, business, medical, and cruise tourism The cruise sector provided the emirate with more than 350,000 visitors Ali Hassan Al Shaiba Acting Executive Director of the Marketing and Communications Sector at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism WE WELCOMED 10 MILLION VISITORS TO THE EMIRATE IN 2018 Ali Hassan Al Shaiba is Acting Executive Director of the Marketing and Communications Sector at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism. We asked him how tourism is progressing in Abu Dhabi and what are the main drivers. Visitor figures to Abu Dhabi have once again risen yearon-year, and we welcomed an incredible 10 million visitors to the emirate in 2018. There are many factors driving this success; we have been greatly diversifying our tourism offering, and aside from the usual holidaymakers, placing a greater focus on developing different sub-sectors – such as cultural, business, medical, and cruise tourism. This has been paying off – in 2018, the cruise sector provided us more than 350,000 visitors, while our world-class cultural assets, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, attracted more than 2.6 million people to the emirate. Cultural tourism is of course a main attraction. What’s new in this respect? December saw the addition of a jewel to Abu Dhabi’s cultural crown, with the much-anticipated launch of the Al Hosn cultural site. The original urban block of the city, Al Hosn features our oldest and most significant landmark, Qasr Al Hosn, now transformed into a museum narrating the history of the emirate, as well as the Cultural Foundation, dedicated to all forms of contemporary Emirati culture. Al Hosn takes its place alongside our many other cultural assets, such as landmark museum Louvre Abu Dhabi, which in November 2018 celebrated both its one-year anniversary and the tremendous milestone of one million visitors. Gastronomy is growing as an attraction in Abu Dhabi. What kind of events do you have that are attracting food lovers? Abu Dhabi is a true melting pot, and you can find cuisines here from all over the world, so food is certainly one of our main attractions. We have a number of fun and tasty public events celebrating global gastronomy. Taste of Abu Dhabi is an annual long weekend of food, drink and music on Yas Island, showcasing the newest and most exciting restaurants and chefs from around the world, and offering live cooking demonstrations and masterclasses. How are your source markets evolving? We have six Tier 1 markets: the Gulf Cooperation Council member states, the United States, UK, India, Germany and China. However, the variety and scope of the emirate’s offerings are attracting a wide demographic of tourists from these source destinations and far beyond. What’s new on the hospitality front – in terms of new resorts and hotels? We have many new luxury hotels enhancing the hospitality landscape. Notable recent additions include The Edition, located in the redeveloped Bateen Marina area, and the Saadiyat Rotana. Saadiyat Island in particular has so much to offer guests, with a cluster of fantastic resorts, beautiful beaches, and for a dash of culture, the exhibitions and events going on at Manarat al Saadiyat and NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery. Attractions are one of the key components of our tourism strategy, sitting alongside our work to create an even more action-packed calendar of events. At the end of last year, we launched an incentive scheme to develop content and programme collaboration to build on the already established annual events calendar. For attractions, Yas Island now boasts the recently-opened Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. Yas Island will also be host to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in 2022 as the first-ever SeaWorld outside the US. How important is ITB Berlin as a platform to promote Abu Dhabi on the global stage? ITB Berlin is a vital platform for Abu Dhabi to show its best facets to the world. Each year, we find ourselves building important ties with our fellow attendees, and a number of initiatives and partnerships have resulted from the valuable networking that we conduct at the fair. Quite simply, ITB Berlin is the premier event for us to promote our brand and all the emirate has to offer ITB BERLIN NEWS • Friday 8 th March 2019 www.itb-berlin-news.com

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW 19 YOU WILL NEVER RUN OUT OF THINGS TO DO IN SHARJAH H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) Sharjah aims for 10 million visitors in 2021 The emirate is diversifying its ecotourism, culture and nature offerings H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa is Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), and is back at ITB Berlin to promote the rising Gulf destination. We started by asking about Sharjah’s trade highlights in 2019. ITB Berlin 2019 is another opportunity for SCTDA to showcase our latest plans and strategies, in addition to our new tourism and leisure projects unveiled over the past few months. SCTDA is putting the spotlight this year on ecotourism products, outdoor activities, and branded hotels operating in the emirate. All these are still aligned with the target of 10 million tourists by 2021, the UAE’s 50th founding anniversary. Why is your tourism offering much more diverse than many people might imagine? The landscapes of the emirate lend themselves to a huge range of outdoor activities: dune bashing, sandboarding and trekking through the desert near Mleiha, or kayaking and snorkelling are all possible for outdoor enthusiasts on the east coast. Sharjah is also known as the gateway to authentic Arab art, culture and ancient heritage, offering impressive historical and cultural landmarks. Other top tourist attractions in the emirate include Al Majaz Waterfront and Al Noor Island, which offer a combination of indoor and outdoor relaxing or activity-driven options for visitors such as a splash park, mini golf and a literature pavilion. What are some of the different things people can do in the emirate that they may not have considered? Nature lovers will definitely enjoy watching the beautiful sun rise over the dunes in the Arabian desert, with a once-in-a-lifetime camel ride completing their desert experience. Or they might want to book a morning Desert Safari package to experience the tranquil beauty of the Arabian desert. We also have the village of Mleiha for outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs and explorers seeking a relaxing experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This major tourist hub perfectly blends archaeological, eco, and adventure tourism. Many spas and resorts and other key tourism projects are now in the pipeline in Sharjah. In 2018, the fivestar luxury Al Bait Hotel opened in the emirate to deliver an authentic Emirati hospitality experience. Representing the best Sharjah has to offer, the hotel exudes Sharjah’s legacy and heritage. Khorfakkan is another tourist attraction, a top spot for divers with Shark Island being the most famous area. Sharjah has a wide array of leisure and recreational activities that can be enjoyed by the entire family. We have scenic beaches, wildlife and public parks, and other Arabic attractions such as the Kalba area, Eye of the Emirates, and the Al Noor Mosque. The Butterfly House on Al Noor Island is one of the emirate’s newest and most unusual attractions. You will never run out of things to do in Sharjah. Rain is of course very rare in Sharjah but a new Rain Room allows visitors to experience desert showers. Please tell us more. Random International’s immersive installation Rain Room uses 1,200 litres of self-cleaning recycled water, providing visitors with the innovative experience of continuous rainfall while motion sensors prevent drenching. Operating since May 2018, the Rain Room is part of the Sharjah Art Foundation Collection and the first of a series of artist-designed permanent spaces. LANDSCAPES OF THE EMIRATE LEND THEMSELVES TO A HUGE RANGE OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES How would you describe Sharjah’s three USPs? There are many reasons that make Sharjah a wonderful place to visit. First, it is a family-oriented destination, warmly welcoming people of different nationalities and cultures. Second, Sharjah is known as a cultural hub, showcasing not only the beauty of Arab traditions and heritage but it also emphasises the importance of preserving cultural identities while respecting diversity and differences. Lastly, the emirate offers a unique and unusual combination of authentic Arabic art, culture and natural heritage ITB BERLIN NEWS • Friday 8 th March 2019

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