Sharjah’s new road projects announced can increase tourism to Sharjah and neighboring emirates, according to experts.
The two road projects, worth Dh1 billion, are aimed at easing traffic on major roads in Sharjah, as well as connecting the center of the city to ring roads and Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road. The 140km road, 73km of which is in Dubai, links Dubai to the rest of the emirates, including Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Among the benefits arising from the road projects is higher hotel occupancy levels in Sharjah, according to Peter Goddard, managing director at TRI Hospitality Consulting, a hospitality consulting firm.
“It can also stimulate associated tourism facilities, like theme parks and crafts centers,” Goddard said.
Additionally, the development can “bring improved investments into Sharjah,” said Philip Wooller, area director-Middle East and Africa at STR Global, a provider of market data to the hotel industry.
“It’s a much cheaper option to build in Sharjah,” he added.
The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), which works to promote Sharjah as an investment destination, recently announced the commencement of work on a Dh100 million hotel project in Sharjah. The first traditional Emirati five-star Al Bait hotel is expected to be completed near the end of December 2014.
The traditional hotel is part of the ‘Heart of Sharjah’ initiative, which aims to revive the heritage area of Sharjah through restoration projects of historical sites and museums in the emirate. Shurooq recently showcased the initiative at ITB Berlin 2013 — one of the world’s leading travel trade shows — to promote Sharjah’s investment potential in its tourism and leisure industry, among others.
The Sharjah Government has focused on promoting heritage and culture to reel in tourists to the emirate. It has 17 museums that projects the country’s rich past.
Sharjah’s tourism industry has seen strong signs of growth in recent years. According to the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), Sharjah received 1,739,240 tourists last year, 195,462 of which were from Saudi Arabia — a 96 per cent rise from 99,505 in 2011. Tourists from Oman registered the strongest growth in 2012, their numbers surging to 135,334 from 54,794 in 2011. GCC tourists stood at 618,487 last year, accounting for 36 per cent of the total number of tourists.
Meanwhile, the connectivity between Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road and Sharjah’s centre can increase the number of tourists moving from Sharjah to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s main travel destinations, according to Goddard.
Sharjah’s tourists, especially from Russia and Eastern Europe, can make more day trips to the nearby emirates, he added.
The first road project involves a dual four-lane carriageway extending King Abdul Aziz Road from Abu Shagara Tunnel to Al Jubail street alongside the New Jubail Market that will be built on the Creek.
Meanwhile, the second project includes the extension of Al Arouba Street opposite Al Layyah.
Sharjah has long experienced traffic jams across its roads, squares and roundabouts, especially during peak hours. This has frustrated travellers entering and leaving Sharjah.