As international interest in Sharjah grows, the emirate’s charming East Coast is set to see nearly 50 per cent increase in the arrivals of international luxury cruise passengers during the upcoming 2012-2013 season.
This year the Khor Fakkan Port will host more than 40 international luxury cruiseliners with approximately 130,000 passengers, said HE Mohamed Ali Al Noman, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority. “So during the upcoming season, the Khor Fakkan Port, which hosted 23 luxury cruiseliners with more than 67,000 passengers onboard during the 2011-12 season, will receive two cruise ships a week as against just one weekly call in the last season,” he added.
Some of the cruise ships that have confirmed their calls at Khor Fakkan Port include Costa Atlantica (17 calls), Costa Classica (16 calls), Costa neoRomantica (4 calls), Seabourne Pride (one call) and Seabourne Odyssey (two calls.) TUI Cruises and Royal Caribbean, who are in negotiations with the Khor Fakkan Port Authority, are likely to come onboard soon.
Hailing the increase in international luxury cruise calls, the SCTDA Chairman said that the emirate, which has been attracting an increasing number of European tourists in recent years, is looking forward to more international visitors to its East Coast.
“We have been trying to turn international focus on Sharjah’s magnificent East Coast and attract more international visitors with special events and festivals. We hosted a very successful H20 Nations Cup Powerboat Championship in March. So this increased attention on Sharjah and the East Coast by international luxury cruise passengers is indeed a welcome development and goes well with our strategy. More important, it will strengthen the local economy,” said Al Noman pointing out that the emirate was keen to develop the tourism infrastructure and facilities on the East Coast to attract more international tourists.
Last year more than 1.5 million tourists visited Sharjah. The number is expected to be significantly higher this year. “Thanks to its strategic location overlooking both the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf Coast and the natural splendour of the East Coast, Sharjah makes for an ideal destination for luxury cruiseliners. Ours is the only emirate that has ports on both coasts,” emphasised Al Noman.
Sharjah is home to three of the finest deep water harbours in the country, the other two being Khalid Port and Hamriyah. The location of Sharjah’s ports offers strategic advantage to ships and major cruiseliners.
The cruise tourism sector in the Middle East has been growing at a remarkable pace seeing a steady increase in passengers. Countries in the region are increasingly investing to support cruise tourism facilities and services. The UAE has been eyeing a major slice of this market as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai all attract big players of the industry. Costa Cruises was the first major cruise-liner to introduce Gulf itineraries.