Interview: Khalid Jasim Al Midfa

Where is the standout appeal of Sharjah’s tourism industry to international businesses and investors?

KHALID JASIM AL MIDFA: We are working to elevate Sharjah’s profile as an investment-friendly destination. This involves showcasing the emirate’s cultural richness, family-friendly atmosphere and safety at international forums and trade shows. We highlight our position as a bridge between the East and the West, as well as accessibility to major global markets, to prospective investors. Infrastructure development is also critical. We continuously improve our transport network and accommodation facilities, thereby supporting tourism while signalling to international businesses the potential for long-term growth and sustainability in Sharjah.

We are innovating in the ecotourism and cultural tourism segments. Sharjah’s commitment to conservation presents investment opportunities that align with global sustainability goals. We view this space as ripe for international collaboration, offering both profitability and the fulfilment of the environmental, social and governance criteria that many investors seek.

Meanwhile, we work to foster an environment conducive to business by streamlining bureaucratic processes and offering incentives. For instance, our focus on the digital transformation of government services aims to facilitate a seamless business experience, reducing overhead and increasing efficiency for all parties.

How can emerging markets align their tourism offerings with environmentally sustainable practices?

AL MIDFA: Emerging markets possess a unique opportunity to integrate sustainable practices into their tourism offerings from the ground up. Sustainable tourism in emerging markets must prioritise the conservation of natural resources and cultural heritage. In Sharjah we have developed protected areas and wildlife centres, preserving biodiversity and offering distinctive visitor experiences. This approach promotes respect for the natural and cultural environment while also encouraging tourists to select from travel options that are both socially and environmentally responsible.

Green technologies can facilitate sustainable operations. Among these, systems that integrate renewable energy usage, water conservation and responsible waste management in hotels can help to reduce the environmental footprint of tourism-related activities.

Community involvement is essential to tourism planning and development in emerging markets. This can provide economic benefits to local populations and support tourism offerings that are authentic and respectful of local traditions and values. Capacity building and education are key for effective implementation.

Sustainable tourism in emerging markets like Sharjah requires a comprehensive, strategic approach that intertwines economic growth with environmental stewardship and social well-being. This is a pathway to creating a resilient and responsible tourism sector that can serve as a blueprint for others to follow.

Looking ahead, what are the prospects for Sharjah to strengthen its position as a tourism destination?

AL MIDFA: The UAE Tourism Strategy 2031, which aims to double the number of visitors by 2031, is both ambitious and attainable, given the continuous innovation and investment in the industry. The introduction of cultural events, the expansion of hotel capacity and the fostering of international partnerships are all expected to contribute to this vision. Our positive outlook stems from several strategic initiatives in which the UAE, and Sharjah in particular, have continued to invest.

Sharjah’s diverse tourism offerings, ranging from ecotourism and cultural heritage to adventure and luxury options, cater to a wide range of visitors. Sharjah is known as the UAE’s cultural capital, which adds a unique flavour to the national tourism landscape. Moreover, the UAE’s proactive approach to safety and security in the post-Covid-19 environment, as well as its political stability, helps to instil confidence in visitors.