SHARJAH // Tourism officials have been urged to improve the performance of tour guides and do more to promote visits to less developed parts of the emirate.
Members of the Sharjah Consultative Council's 10th session on Thursday were directing questions to Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, the chairman of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
Khawla al Norman, a council member, was concerned about the expertise of tour guides and the extent to which Emiratis were recruited.
"In most countries tour guides are nationals of those countries as they understand their country better than expats," she said.
Sheikh Sultan said the authority launched a tour guide training scheme with Sharjah's Skyline College in 2009 and recruited tourism graduates from Sharjah University.
He said about half of the authority's staff were Emirati, with efforts under way to raise the percentage.
Mohammed Saeed al Shamsi, another council member, asked what the authority was doing to expand tourism beyond the city.
Sheikh Sultan said coastal areas of Sharjah's eastern enclave, including Khor Fakhan and Kalba, were evolving into tourism destinations thanks to promotions that highlight their natural environment.
Sheikh Sultan said about 1.5m tourists visited Sharjah last year, compared with 600,000 in 2001. The number of hotels in the emirate rose from 40 in 2001 to 107 last year.