- 16,000 people book tickets every 4 seconds via intelligent apps
- Economic and demographic growth directly affects the future of tourism
Sharjah: A number of tourism development experts discussed mechanisms to foster the continued growth of the tourism sector in a way that ensures its sustainability, discussing concepts such as ‘ecotourism’, ‘responsible tourism’ and the importance of innovation in meeting tourists’ Needs and support for the transformation to sustainable tourism in the UAE.
This came in a session themed “Reshaping Tourism and Safeguarding the Future” at which SE Ahmed Al Qaseer, Acting CEO of the Sharjah (Shurooq) Investment and Development Authority; Mohamed Jassim Al Rais, Chair of the Travel and Tourism Agencies Working Group – Dubai Chamber of Commerce; and dr Amer Al Kassem, Associate Professor – School of Business at Skyline University College.
Sustainability at the heart of future tourism
HE Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseser highlighted the great attention Sharjah pays to ecotourism, focusing on two priorities; Preserving the environment with all its resources while expanding the tourism sector and providing unique experiences in the many reserves in the regions of Sharjah through coordination with other entities, notably the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA).
Al Qaseer cited Shurooq’s experience in the city of Klaba, where biodiversity research and studies were consulted to develop an inclusive plan that would identify areas to build on and use environmentally friendly materials in the development of new tourist attractions.
On the development of the tourism sector, Al Qaseer added: “The market is big enough for everyone. However, we must deal with change efficiently because the faster we develop our strategy, the better we ensure sustainability. The data suggests that the increase in the number of airlines and tourism agencies will result in a greater number of tourists given the variety of options on offer.”
He stressed the role of community responsibility in achieving sustainability, adding that “sustainability should be the responsibility of everyone, individuals and communities, as it is a complete cycle that leaves diverse tourism experiences without economic sustainability for local communities .”
More than 16,000 people book tickets every four seconds, said Dr. Amer Al Kassem, Associate Professor – School of Business at Skyline University College, highlighting the dynamism of the ever-evolving tourism sector.
“Today there are over 60,000 apps for online travel booking alone, and technology has transformed the hospitality industry by 64 percent in the last decade,” he said, noting how artificial intelligence is taking on front-office roles in the industry .
“You have a fully integrated global village in the palm of your hand when you have internet access. As artificial intelligence and other innovative technologies revolutionize tourism, the human factor remains at the heart of the experience and nothing can replace the value of personalized interactions,” added Dr. America added.
For his part, Mohamed Jassim Al Rais, Chair of the Travel and Tourism Agents Working Group, said: “In the UAE, the tourism sector accounts for 12 percent of the country’s GDP. The integration of the tourism sector with supporting companies is crucial to create a stable and sustainable economic structure. We also need to make sure we preserve the culture of the community.”
Al Rais highlighted the Maldives as an example of a cohesive tourism model, with local people providing resources from natural resources, producing fruit and vegetables for hotel kitchens, and providing fun activities for tourists. “It is impressive that solo travel in the Middle East has increased by 23 percent in the wake of the pandemic. The future of tourism looks bright and I hope for borderless, visa-free travel in the decades to come,” he added.
dr Amer Al Kassem, Associate Professor – School of Business at Skyline University College, stressed the need to formulate clear guidelines to invest in youth resources with a focus on tourism. “Young entrepreneurs need to identify the niches by filling the service gaps in the market. We need to introduce new academic specializations and courses that help young people to understand the sector.
He added that sustainability is an important calculus to weigh the industry as a whole. “Tourism is a healthy sector that complements all areas of society and constantly influences each other. From airport services to taxi drivers, everyone has a place in determining a positive tourism experience,” said Dr. america
The SITTF takes place under the motto “Building a Resilient Future for Tourism” and is organized by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA) at the Sharjah Expo Centre. The forum complements SCTDA’s efforts to bolster Sharjah’s position on the global tourism map and provide travel and tourism companies with an opportunity to explore industry best practices and innovative solutions.