x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Hotel to put Khor Fakkan on tourist map

Residents say The Chedi Khorfakkan is needed to change the fortunes of its 50,000 residents and will signal a boom for the town, an enclave of Sharjah nestled between Fujairah and Dibba.

The corniche in Khor Fakkan, an enclave of Sharjah on the east coast. Sarah Dea/The National
The corniche in Khor Fakkan, an enclave of Sharjah on the east coast. Sarah Dea/The National

KHOR FAKKAN // The quiet, east coast outpost of Khor Fakkan is off the beaten track for most visitors, but that is set to change with a Dh420 million mountainside villa resort.

The Chedi Khor Fakkan, which has taken five years to build and will open next year, is the international luxury hotel chain’s second Middle East property after one in Muscat.

It is expected to change the fortunes of Khor Fakkan’s 50,000 residents and signal a boom for the town, an enclave of Sharjah nestled between Fujairah and Dibba.

Staff at Khor Fakkan’s largest hotel, the Oceanic, have welcomed the development.

“The place needs to be more attractive to tourists, for them to feel there’s something different to come here as a destination,” said Nadar Ezzat, assistant front desk manager.

His colleague, Ahmed Abdel Nabi, said keeping guests entertained could be a challenge.

“At the weekend we’re always full with residents and locals visiting, but for the main bulk of our business where people come on package tours, staying for one to two weeks, it’s challenging,” Mr Abdel Nabi said.

The new hotel offered more potential, he said.

The development of the Chedi will coincide with other new facilities along the town’s corniche, including a watersports centre, cycling and running tracks, changing areas for beach visitors and other recreational facilities.

But Mr Abdel Nabi cautioned against overdeveloping the area as it could damage its traditional charm, which is a big attraction for visitors.

“That’s what tourists want to see and feel,” he said. “They want to come here and see something different.

“Many people are coming here from Dubai or Sharjah so we need to be able to offer something authentic.”

More interaction with Emirati culture and heritage would also be popular, he said.

Residents have also welcomed the development.

“It will bring people from all over the UAE,” said Sharif Asuma, an Indian expatriate who has lived in Khor Fakkan for 10 years and runs a shop on the corniche.

“It will be good for business. We do have tourists come but it will be better with the redevelopment.”

Over the past decade the town has seen some changes, Mr Asuma said. “It’s been improving but the changes here are needed.”

Another shopkeeper, Binus Sadar, who has lived in Khor Fakkan for seven years, said the town suffered from being so close to better known destinations such as Dibba and Fujairah. More visitors would bring a welcome boost to the economy.

“There are not so many visitors coming,” Mr Sadar said. “Maybe they are going to Dibba, Fujairah, there are other places to go to. People just don’t know about Khor Fakkan as much as other destinations.

“We would love to see more tourists so we hope the redevelopment will help things.”

Mohamed Farooq, manager of the Khor Fakkan Hotel Apartments, said the area struggled to attract large numbers of tourists for more than a day or two, although it was popular with locals.

“Most tourists seem to go to Dubai but for us, most of our business is from Emiratis who come from all over the emirates,” Mr Farooq said.

“Hopefully the redevelopment will help us raise some awareness about Khor Fakkan.

“When there are more hotels here, it will help us all as it will boost the destination, bringing more people here.”

Pegasus Tourism organises day trips twice a week for tourists staying in Dubai. Most stay at the Oceanic to use the pool and beach, and to have lunch.

Tour guide Zakir Nazarov said most of the day trippers came from Russia or Eastern European countries.

“They want to swim in the Omani Gulf but there really isn’t anything else for us to do with them. It’s not very interesting,” said Mr Nazarov, from Kyrgystan.

“They want to see somewhere different to Dubai but they don’t want to stay here because there’s nothing to do – no water parks, no Ferrari World. The redevelopment is needed. There’s nothing even cultural or historical like a museum to show them.”

Stanislav Volkov and Vachislav Mukko were part of a tour organised by Pegasus.

“I wanted to see a new place and leave Dubai so I planned a few tours like to Abu Dhabi and on a desert safari there,” said Mr Volkov, 23.

“Khor Fakkan is very beautiful.”

A trip to the east coast was a chance to see another side of life in the UAE, said Mr Mukko, 27.

“Dubai is like a city of the future and Khor Fakkan, a city of the past. It’s a totally different experience and I wanted to see that.”