One- On- One with Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Chief Operating Officer, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)
“Shurooq, along with multiple Sharjah government entities, have strived towards promoting Sharjah from a business and tourism stand-point aggressively over the years.”
1. What according to you is the present picture of the Shurooq and how do you see it evolving in the coming years?
We see Shurooq as a constant force of transformation in Sharjah’s global presence as an iconic investment destination. Our fundamental functionality is to ensure that our diversification process is meeting market demands as well as investors’ demands. To-date, Shurooq has successfully developed tourism projects which attract a variety of segments for investments, those include: Tourism and leisure, business tourism, cultural tourism, eco-tourism and agro-tourism.
For Shurooq, we’ve witnessed that the international tourism sector has been progressively evolving towards creating new eco-tourism projects. As a result, we’ve given Sharjah a solid head-start in the eco-tourism industry, and kick-started the first phase of the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism project in January 2016. The project was one of the core initiatives by Shurooq in order to offer global investors pioneering opportunities in the eco-tourism market. Additionally, we are in the process of developing further eco-tourism projects such as the Kalba Eco-tourism project and the Sir Bu Nuair Island.
2. Tell us about your latest venture, and how will it benefit Sharjah as a destination?
This year we successfully launched the first of three phases of the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism project. It is one of the largest and leading eco-tourism projects in the UAE and the region. The project is a symbol of our dedication and commitment to protect our heritage and preserve our Emirati identity, as the Mleiha area holds historical significance to our origins dating thousands of years ago.
We are promoting this destination not only to attract adventure-seekers, historians, tourists and visitors, but also to attract investors with innovative technologies that help us preserve and protect this historic landmark. The history behind Mleiha tells a story, dating thousands of years ago, on the significance and strategic location of the area, which played a key role during the world’s expansion and evolution. The Mleiha story first began during the Paleolithic Period and sustained itself all the way until the late pre-Islamic era.
We’ve successfully preserved some of the most iconic landmarks which not only reflected the diverse types of human civilizations which resided there, but also the type of nature and environment which existed during each period. The fossil rocks and physical structures of some of the area’s mountains provided historic evidences that the area was rich in water and was somewhat under certain levels of sea water. Visitors experiencing the Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism project will have facilities and activities that will genuinely take them on one of the most memorable trip around the history of Sharjah and the area. The first phase has launched Mleiha Archaeological Centre which enables a large exhibition area of all the key discoveries behind the project, a restaurant with a beautiful scene of the mountains and mesmerizing rooftop area to gaze at the stars at night.
This project has truly positioned Sharjah as a central destination to discover a more urban, genuine, authentic and adventurous side of the UAE. The Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism project is the perfect mix between Sharjah’s historic culture, discovering nature and enjoying memorable scenery.
3. Which projects and initiatives are expected to have the most significance for Sharjah's development in the near future?
Apart from the continuous popularity and focus on promoting Sharjah’s eco-tourism sector through Mleiha, we also focus on developing our existing projects which also contribute significantly to the emirate’s agro-eco tourism segment.
We are continuously developing and improving projects and landscapes which are iconic for the emirate’s modern architecture and rich in heritage and culture. Some of these projects include: Al Majaz Waterfront, Heart of Sharjah, Al Noor Island, Kalba Eco-tourism project. Our objectives behind the constant development of these projects are to continuously position Sharjah as a world-leading destination which symbolizes the UAE’s historic heritage and culture.
4. What were the key challenges you are facing at present and how do you counter them?
Shurooq, along with multiple Sharjah government entities, have strived towards promoting Sharjah from a business and tourism stand-point aggressively over the years. People, tourists and investors who visited Sharjah have clearly witnessed a strategic and unique opportunity that’s untapped and niche as a local and regional market.
The most fundamental objective isn’t to simply promote tourism in Sharjah, but to promote a segment that makes tourists live a story, taste a story and be in a story about Sharjah. Sharjah holds many treasures and we’ve been in the business of unveiling them and developing them in order to give tourists and visitors a unique experience. Travellers are constantly in pursuit for destinations where they can be “the first” amongst their social networks to experience them. Thus our core function is to make sure that we’ve successfully provided this experience.
5. You believe in the concept of development, in turn for a “Better Tomorrow”, what are the initiatives taken in terms of the community development?
Part of Shurooq’s mission and vision is to also promote Sharjah as home to one of the most popular and diversified agro-eco tourism sectors in the region. We are instrumental about developing and sustaining projects which are environmentally friendly and developing “green” communities. If we look at Al Noor Island and Al Majaz Waterfront projects, both developed by Shurooq, they constitute as two of the UAE’s leading destinations in merging modern landscape designs with Sharjah’s historic heritage and culture, Sustaining and conserving the landscape’s planting mechanism and many more.
For instance, Al Majaz Waterfront’s running track is made up of 100% recycled tires, and in Al Noor Island, we provide visitors unique and green-friendly light technologies where visitors can have different experiences at different times of the day, light intensity and colour are manipulated throughout the day and night
Additionally, Shurooq takes considers the following initiatives when planning for innovative green-friendly and sustainable tourism projects:
6. What are your plans in terms of promotion and expansion in Middle East and overseas?
Shurooq has been constantly nurturing and developing its strategic relations with international companies and business leaders all over the world. We have welcomed multiple delegations from Canada, Portugal, Turkey, India, Italy and the UK to Sharjah this year, and we’ll be still welcoming further delegations from Europe and Asia. These visits have genuinely given business owners and investors a new take on Sharjah as a unique tourism and investment destination, whom are still in talks with us for future business prospects in Sharjah’s tourism segment.
We’ve recently had a successful visit to London, UK, where we organised a two-day event which exhibited exceptional results. The trip was held from April 7th until the 8th, where we made an official announcement that we’ll be opening our first overseas offices in London, in order to promote the bilateral investments between Sharjah and UK, as well as promote the emirate’s tourism sector in the UK and across Europe.
Our mission and vision is to utilize all our local and international resources to genuinely reflect on the emirate’s tourism potential which offers visitors and investors a unique experience, as well as promote Sharjah as a central destination for tourism and investments.