Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council, the Sharjah Hospitality Forum 2020 (SHF 2020) today (Monday, November 16, 2020) discussed the best and fastest recovery path for the emirate’s tourism sector with the participants proposing innovative solutions to support the stakeholders of the tourism, hospitality and travel industries and sustain their gradual return to growth and normalcy.
Organized by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), the seventh edition of SHF, held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19, highlighted the emerging tourism, hospitality and travel challenges and opportunities in a post-pandemic era.
The event also showcased the most successful tourism projects and the latest innovations that are driving tourism recovery.
High-profile speakers from the government and private sectors, experts, decision-makers, tourism and economic stakeholders, and representatives of local authorities and international organizations took part in the forum. The attendees included Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Director General, Department of eGovernment, Government of Sharjah; H.E. Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Chairman of SCTDA; honor guest and speaker H.E. Abdulla Al Saleh Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Foreign Trade & Industry, and Natalia Bayona, Director of the Innovation, Digital Transformation and Investments Department, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); and Tiffany Misrahi, Vice President of Policy, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Other speakers included international experts and executives such as Basmah Al-Mayman, Middle East Regional Director, UNWTO; Shalini Rajan, Head of Sales and Cargo, Air Arabia; Kashif Khalid, Regional Director – Africa & Middle East, International Air Transport Association (IATA); Fadel Ozmen, General Manager, Antics Tours Tourism; Hafeez Azzim, Regional Manager - Commercial Operations in the GCC, Middle East & Central Asia, Emirates; Shafiq Alaeddin, General Manager of Sharjah Group, Misk; Ahmed Obaid Al Tunaiji, Manager – Tourism Standards Department, SCTDA; and Majed Al Suwaidi, Director of the Manager of Overseas Promotions Department, SCTDA.
The forum’s series of virtual dialogue sessions highlighted the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global tourism and travel sector, as well as the future growth prospects for airline and travel companies amid exceptional challenges today.
Practical solutions were posited by attendees to accelerate recovery, while putting forward short and long-term opportunities and the importance of deploying innovative platforms, including smart and remote-work tools, allowing for successful adapting to the new reality.
The first session titled ‘Domestic Tourism in Light of the Current Challenges’ was moderated by Dr. Mariam Taha, while the second session headed by Dr. Mohit Vij was titled ‘The future of airlines, travel and tourism industry- Costs and Benefits.’
During the third session, Dr. Amal Ali led the discussions on the rapid digital transformation of the tourism sector and the remote-work set-up within the sector as a result of the pandemic. The fourth and final session titled ‘International Protocols for Infectious Diseases, pandemic and crise management’ was moderated by Ajay Bhojwani, Regional Director General of MCI. The forum also shed light on the UAE’s COVID-19 response and strategies as the country was included in the top 10 countries in the world for coronavirus treatment.
The participants expressed confidence in the country’s future growth prospects, citing the significant initiatives and economic stimulus packages launched by the UAE’s wise leadership to bring back vibrancy to the tourism and hospitality sectors while following precautionary measures. Visibly prompt government actions have enhanced confidence in the UAE as one of the world’s safest tourism, hospitality and entertainment destinations.