Sharjah, the capital of Arab and Islamic culture, has been wowing the Saudi and international visitors after its exciting debut at the fourth edition of the Riyadh Travel Fair that opened in the Saudi capital on Tuesday (May 15) amid much fanfare.

A large number of Saudi visitors and those from neighbouring Arab and GCC states thronged the eye-catching Sharjah pavilion on day one and two of the exhibition, exploring the various tourist attractions and leisure options showcased at the stand in the Saudi capital.

“Sharjah has always enjoyed a special relationship with Saudi Arabia thanks to the strong Arab and Islamic cultural identities and values that both share,” said HE Mohamed Ali Al Noman, the Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

The emirate has long been one of the favourite holiday destinations of the Saudi families. In fact, the Saudi tourists are Sharjah’s second largest market after Europeans, he emphasised pointing out that Sharjah received more than 65,000 Saudi tourists in the first quarter of this year alone.

Some 381,625 tourists from the GCC countries visited Sharjah during Year 2011, forming 24 per cent of the total number of tourists to the emirate. And at more than 99,000, the Saudis formed the bulk of the visitors from the GCC region. “This only underscores the importance of the Gulf tourism market and the need to maintain our presence and performance in the region. We will continue our efforts to tap this vast market by constantly diversifying and improving tourism services and attractions in the emirate,” said Al Noman.

The SCTDA Chairman also pointed out that Saudi Arabia now enjoys even greater connectivity to Sharjah and the UAE with the launch of new Air Arabia flight to Saudi city Taif from next month. Air Arabia now flies 66 times a week to seven Saudi cities. This will only increase the flow of Saudi tourists to Sharjah and the UAE, he added.

“Although we have held some road shows in Saudi Arabia in the past, this is the first time we have made a serious pitch for Sharjah in the largest country in the region showcasing our popular tourist attractions and holiday and shopping opportunities the emirate offers to GCC travelers during the long summer break and at other times. So we are really excited!” he added.

The Saudis are attracted to Sharjah because of the safe, friendly and family-oriented environment it offers to Arab families, emphasised the SCTDA Chairman on the sidelines of the Riyadh Travel Fair, being held from May 15 to 18 in the Saudi capital. The SCTDA is heading a delegation representing Sharjah’s tourism and hospitality sector and is the Golden Partner and one of the key participants in the Riyadh fair.