By Andy Sambidge
Emirate's tourism chief says new international operators are poised to start services
Sharjah is targeting nearly 50 percent growth in its cruise tourism sector this year as it seeks to attract more international operators to the emirate.
This year, the Khor Fakkan Port will host more than 40 international luxury cruise liners with approximately 130,000 passengers, said Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
"So during the upcoming season, the Khor Fakkan Port, which hosted 23 luxury cruiseliners with more than 67,000 passengers onboard during the 2011-12 season, will receive two cruise ships a week as against just one weekly call in the last season," he added.
Some of the cruise ships that have confirmed their calls at Khor Fakkan Port include Costa Atlantica, Costa Classica, Costa neoRomantica, Seabourne Pride and Seabourne Odyssey.
TUI Cruises and Royal Caribbean, who are in negotiations with the Khor Fakkan Port Authority, are likely to come onboard soon, he added.
The SCTDA chairman said that the emirate, which has been attracting an increasing number of European tourists in recent years, is looking forward to more international visitors to its East Coast.
"We have been trying to turn international focus on Sharjah's magnificent East Coast and attract more international visitors with special events and festivals," said Al Noman.
Last year more than 1.5 million tourists visited Sharjah and the number is expected to be significantly higher this year, he added.
Sharjah is home to three deep water harbours.
Countries in the region are increasingly investing to support cruise tourism facilities and services.
The UAE has been eyeing a major slice of this market as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai all attract big players of the industry.