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Michael Kasch Michael Kasch

Q & A with Michael Kasch, General Manager, Centro Sharjah

SHARJAH IS DETERMINED TO ATTRACT 10 MILLION VISITORS BY 2021, AND ACCORDING TO MICHAEL KASCH, GENERAL MANAGER,

CENTRO SHARJAH, HOTELIERS ARE EXPECTED TO PLAY A CRUCIAL ROLE IN ATTAINING THIS GOAL.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How has business been at the hotel so far this year as compared to previous years?

MICHAEL KASCH: A major highlight has been the overall distinctly busy operations. [During autumn, we recorded an average] occupancy level of 90 percent.

The decline of Russian visitors to the Middle East due to the devaluation of the Rouble and the overall plunge in passenger travel from CIS countries has had an impact in business growth versus the preceding year.

However, our strategic location, in close proximity to Sharjah’s airport and Saif Zone companies, along with our positioning as a stylish and affordable hotel has prevented a stall in business.

[The best] performing markets in Sharjah continue to be GCC states, CIS countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia and we have also seen a notable influx of Chinese tourists. Success in these markets could be attributed to various self-sustaining initiatives taken by stakeholders in the emirate, including Air Arabia’s recent entry into China, [...].

The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA)’s consistent participation in road shows, targeting the emirate’s feeder markets and fortified relations with tour operators [is another major reason, along with] the emirate’s recognition as a cultural hub in the region, attracting not only a large pool of families but also smaller niche markets looking for greater learning and cultural exploration.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: In order to fully exploit the tourism sector’s potential, SCTDA has recently launched Sharjah Tourism Vision 2021 that aims to attract 10 million tourists by 2021. In your opinion, what are the most important measures and steps that need to be taken to meet demand?

MICHAEL KASCH: The emirate of Sharjah has indeed made its presence on the global tourism map as one of the favourite destinations for millions of travellers.

This has all been possible through the cumulative efforts of SCTDA and various stakeholders in aviation, tourism and the hospitality industry.

To cater to this anticipated demand, it will be of utmost importance that these industries continue to work in a collaborative framework and provide their perennial support to developing the infrastructure that supports this demand.

The anticipated growth with Sharjah’s Vision 2021 will not only increase the size of existing feeder markets, but also establish new ones and add various niche markets catering to each of the four pillars the vision is based on.

This will further enhance occupancy during both busy and lean periods.

It will be essential for hotels to position their marketing strategy in line with the vision’s pillars and provide guests with great value for money. Additionally, revenue management would have to be given a new approach keeping in mind the competition with the influx of new hotel chains.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How will this vision support Sharjah’s development?

MICHAEL KASCH: Sharjah has already taken a multitude of steps in positioning itself as a top-notch family destination and the region’s cultural hub.

A large pool of existing projects of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority and SCTDA, as well as the multiple heritage destinations in the emirate are the focal point of this achievement.

Innovative tourism solutions for guests along with world-class facilities will undisputedly enhance the tourism industry holistically in the emirate.

As new tourism projects are launched, hotels need to play a pivotal role in [attracting] guests by building their interest to try new experiences. New communication touch points and solutions must be explored to convey the message.

Vision 2021 aims to revolutionise the tourism experience in Sharjah and we are exhilarated to be a part of this journey.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What is next for the hotel?

MICHAEL KASCH: [These months] are the busiest time of the year and business from the leisure segment is a vital constituent.

[We have recently participated] as an exhibitor in the World Halal Summit, the largest business-to-business gathering of global Halal specialists. […] With its proximity to Sharjah International Airport, Centro Sharjah is the perfect hotel for Halal travellers who do not want to compromise on style and quality.