TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What do you think differentiates Sharjah's cultural offering to other regional destinations?
FELIX BRUNNER: Sharjah has an array of cultural and traditional projects, including several museums covering areas such as archaeology, natural history, science, arts, heritage, Islamic art and culture. Distinctive landmarks include two major covered souks, reflecting Islamic design, and a number of recreational areas and public parks. The city is also notable for its numerous elegant mosques.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the top recommendations you would give visitors wanting to discover Sharjah's culture during their visit?
FELIX BRUNNER: Heritage District; Heart of Sharjah houses several galleries, and museums including the charming Heritage Museum which gives a great insight into the cultural traditions of the past. The area is also home to the traditional Souk Al Arsa, a covered souk with an array of items to sell such as antiques, and the office of Sharjah Centre for Cultural Communication where you can get info on the emirate's attractions. Sharjah Heritage Museum; situated near to Bait Al Naboodah, the museum is just opposite Soouq al- Arsah. This is a beautiful architecturally designed two storey family house. It is built around a shaded courtyard and is dedicated to reconstructing family life many years ago. There are also many rooms which hold displays of traditional furniture along with household items. Moreover, there are also provisions of children's costumes, games and even jewellery.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Which cultural festivals are proving to be the most popular among your guests, and how do these festivals contribute to the emirate's overall tourism industry?
FELIX BRUNNER: Sharjah hosts a number of events throughout the year. To name a few, these are; Sharjah Light Festival, Sharjah International Show Jumping Championship, World Trade Week – Sharjah, Sharjah International Arabian Horse Festival, Sharjah Heritage Days, Al Qasba Food Festival and Sharjah Children Reading Festival. Depending on the taste and purpose of their visit, all of these events attracts tourists from all over the world.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are your plans to attract more tourists to experience Sharjah's cultural experiences?
FELIX BRUNNER: Sharjah International Airport will be expanding to increase its capacity to hold a substantial passenger increase by 2027. The new expansion process of the airport, which includes a huge investment, comprises of many facilities such as the expansion of the passengers' building, which is expected to increase the capacity to hold the increased number of passengers by 2027. The new expansion will be carried out progressively over a number of phases, the most important being the expansion of roads to and from the airport as well as a host of additional facilities.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Overall, how successful was 2017 for Dufry Sharjah?
FELIX BRUNNER: 2017 was a very successful year for Dufry Sharjah. We experienced three percent growth in passenger numbers which impacted our sales positively. There were also a number of new airlines added to the airport portfolio along with some new destinations. We also finished refurbishing the main Duty Free shop to provide our customers with a renewed and refreshed and luxurious shopping experience.
TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Where are the majority of your customers coming from, and what are the main reasons they are choosing Sharjah as a destination?
FELIX BRUNNER: Most of our customers are from India and the subcontinent (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka). Air Arabia, the biggest and main airline operating from Sharjah, is a budget airline which offers cheaper fares compared to other airlines. This is one of the major reasons for passengers opting to fly from Sharjah.