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Following in the footsteps of neighboring Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Sharjah is also emerging as a popular tourist destination. There has been a 15% rise in the number of visitors in the first quarter of 2014 and the number of arrivals in the same period as 2013. These impressive growth figures are luring hospitality industry stakeholders to sit back and take notice.
Currently Sharjah has around 10,000 hotel rooms which, experts believe, will go up to 12,000 in the next two years. But even this will not be enough because if the emirate keeps up with its annual rise of 10-11% in the number of visitors, there will be a shortfall of 1,000 rooms by 2016. Sharjah is likely to attract more than two million visitors this year compared to 1.9 million arrivals in 2013.
Sharjah rides on its proximity to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and the highly anticipated Expo2020 will drive huge demand for hotels. Average room rent per night in Sharjah is significantly lower than Dubai, and this will definitely work to its advantage.
Some of the eagerly awaited tourist projects in Sharjah include the Kalba Eco-Tourism Project. It is expected to be opened by the end of this year and will be a hit among nature lovers who can savour the experience of being amongst exotic marine life and species of bird. A mall, chalets and a 200-room hotel form part of the expansion plans of the project.
Sir Bu Nuair Island, a pristine nature reserve with a variety of flora and fauna and ''registered on the list of wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention,'' is also undergoing major construction work to meet the deadline of 2017. The ambitious tourism and residential project will have a luxury resort, hotel apartments, villas along with a harbor and an airport. The island is located 65 kilometers off the UAE coastline on the Arabian Gulf.
• Sharjah had a 15% rise in visitor numbers between Q1 2014, Q1 2013
• The number of visitors is expected to touch two million in 2014
• Kalba Eco-Tourism Project is one of the major tourism projects
Source: S. Dhar, Special to Properties
The writer is a freelancer