Sharjah has reported an 11.8 per cent decline in the number of hotel guests for the first half of the year. Guest numbers fell to 671,662 in the first half of this year from 761,495 in the same period last year, according to figures released by Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA).
Sharjah is the only emirate so far to reveal the first-half performance of its hotel industry. Analysts said the decline could be attributed to the global tourism downturn. They also said some business travellers to Dubai, who used to stay in Sharjah where rooms were cheaper, were now staying in Dubai hotels that gave discounts on higher quality rooms. "You get a more attractive experience for your money in Dubai due to the quality of the product," said Arnaud Andrieu, the vice president at CB Richard Ellis Hotels Middle East.
Authorities in Sharjah are trying to expand its tourism industry and have put much effort into promoting the emirate as a destination rich in culture and heritage, with a number of museums, mosques and traditional souks. Sharjah attracted more than 1.5 million guests last year; about the same number as Abu Dhabi. But given the significant rise in the number of hotel rooms in Sharjah over the past year, occupancy levels dropped to 64 per cent this year from 83 per cent in the first half of last year.
"The SCTDA worked extremely hard during the first half of 2009 to cushion the impact of the global economic crisis on the emirate's travel and tourism market," said Mohammed al Noman, the director general of the SCDTA. "We intensified our efforts in targeting the local, regional and international tourism markets in order to address the needs of the emirate's fast-changing tourism sector." The increase in the number of hotels and hotel apartments raised the number of available rooms to 8,523 from 7,486, a 14 per cent increase. The number of hotel rooms has risen to 4,275 from 3,913, while the number of hotel apartments has grown to 4,248 rooms from 3,573.
Data from STR Global last month showed that Dubai's hotels have also been hit hard by a substantial rise in the number of rooms and the general downturn in the tourism industry. Occupancy in Dubai fell to 69.9 per cent in the first half of this year from 82.7 per cent in the first six months of last year. Revenue per available room, the key industry measure of the health of the industry, fell 36 per cent in Dubai to US$176.50 (Dh648.28) from $275.40. "Due to the economic turmoil, people are not able to travel as easily as they used to be able to," Mr Andrieu said.
The total number of hotels and hotel apartments in Sharjah rose by 7 per cent to 109 compared with the first half of last year. Other statistics issued by the SCTDA show that Europeans accounted for 32 per cent of all tourists visiting the emirate in the first half of this year, while GCC tourists accounted for 28 per cent. Asian tourists made up 20 per cent of visitors, and tourists from other Arab countries accounted for 14 per cent.