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Fri 1 Dec 2006 12:00 AM

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SATA takes Sharjah into new era

Sharjah Airport Travel Agency (SATA) is looking to the international MICE market to take its business to the next level in 2007.

The government-owned agency reported a 20% increase in passenger numbers in the first half of 2006, and a 25% increase in revenue compared to the same period in 2005, but according to general manager, Hossam Tallat, the company’s new focus on the MICE market will drive more significant growth next year.

“I would consider [the MICE market] to be fairly new to the region, but it is fast becoming a very important sector for us,” he explained.

According to Tallat, new hotels and developments, the completion of the first phase of Sharjah International Airport, and the increasing popularity of expansionist low cost carrier, Air Arabia, is elevating Sharjah’s profile, making it an appealing, if conservative, alternative to Dubai.

“There are many people who would like this kind of atmosphere when they travel.

We try to arrange fam trips, and we try to encourage the charter operators to check out the new look Sharjah Airport,” he said.

Figures released by Sharjah International Airport reveal total passenger movement rocketed from 1.63 million passengers between January and September 2005, to 2.23 million passengers during the same period in 2006, and that overall flight numbers increased from 27,904 to 31,815.

Tallat said the German and Russian MICE markets had already shown an interest in the emirate, and that SATA and Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority now planned to broaden its appeal to new markets such as the UK.

To raise its profile and capture more incoming business, SATA recently opened a new office in the arrivals hall at Sharjah International Airport, which provides ground support services for arrivals.

An office in the departures hall and three other High Street outlets complete SATAs customer-facing portfolio.

The company also operates a branch in the government’s Naturalisation and Residency department.

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