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Date Published: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 LONDON, November 5, 2014 – The spotlight was again on Sharjah at the WTM 2014 as the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority hosted a special press meet and presentation for the UK and international media on the sidelines of the London exhibition to introduce the Sharjah Capital of Arab Tourism Award for 2014 and highlight the emirate’s tourism offering in all its diversity. HE Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, Director General, Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, addressed the Press conference in the presence of other members of the Sharjah’s tourism and hospitality industry delegation. Speaking at the Press conference, which was attended by more than 40 representatives of British and international media, Al Midfa said that it is thanks to the richness and diversity of Sharjah’s tourism and cultural heritage and the continuous guidance and support of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to promote Sharjah in various sectors and international forums that the emirate has been earning itself these proud regional and global titles and honours. Al Midfa said that the Authority is excited about its participation in the London exhibition for the twelfth consecutive year as this is a strategic global platform and networking event to showcase Sharjah’s tourism experience and its cultural heritage. He stressed that Sharjah’s presence this year at the WTM London has truly been outstanding at various levels, particularly in view of the emirate's crowning as the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 with a host of special cultural activities and grand preparations by the emirate to celebrate the honour of the Capital of Arab Tourism Award for 2015 with several special, world-class events and activities. The Director General emphasised that the London exhibition offers an opportunity to shine the light on the Capital of Arab Tourism Award for 2015 for Sharjah. The Emirate of Sharjah was awarded the Capital of Arab Tourism Award for 2015 at the 15th session of The Arab Council of Tourism ministers in Cairo. Sharjah was chosen for the honour as it met all the criteria for this prestigious Award based on its tourism diversity, culture, leisure, the environment, culture, family, educational activities and opportunities. Talking about the Sharjah Islamic Culture Capital Award for 2014, Al Midfa said that the emirate hosted spectacular special events and activities and celebrations throughout the year to mark the honour and attracted thousands of visitors. One of the highlights of the Sharjah Islamic Culture Capital celebrations had been the unique presentation, Clusters of Light, by the German Orchestra Babelsberg with more than 750 artists taking part in the extravagant event at Al Majaz Island. The Clusters of Light shined the light on the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the march of Islam with its universal message of peace, tolerance and love. The Sharjah lights Festival, which is the largest and first of its kind in the Middle East event, also celebrated the SICC Award and Sharjah’s Islamic heritage and legacy. The Sharjah Light Festival attracts internationally acclaimed artists from around the world who use a mix of 3-dimentional art and modern illumination technology on the facades of Sharjah’s landmarks, monuments and tourist attractions to tell the amazing story of this beautiful emirate. Al Midfa said that the Year 2015 will carry forward the march of excellence of 2014 with a number of new events and international festivals and will be an excellent year at all levels, to celebrate the Emirate of Sharjah in all its glory and diversity. The effort will be to highlight the uniqueness of the Emirate in terms of its cultural heritage and tourism diversity, on the one hand, and its world-class hotel facilities, luxury tourism infrastructure, museums, tourist facilities, and leisure and shopping avenues, on the other, providing visitors with unmatched tourism experience. On this occasion, Al Midfa drew the audience’s attention to Sharjah’s colourful calendar of events and festivals. He referred to the Sharjah International Book Fair, which is the fourth-largest in the world and is in its 33rd year of existence, attracting more than a million visitors last year, the Sharjah Water Festival which includes the final round of the Formula One World Powerboat Championship powerboat, Sharjah Grand Prix, Sharjah Heritage Days, Sharjah Light Festival and Sharjah Ramadan and Eid Fair that make it a leading events destination in the region and the world. He emphasised that in addition to being a culture, leisure and tourism destination, Sharjah is also the economic, commercial and educational hub of the region, with nearly half of the UAE’s manufacturing sector being based in in Sharjah. Highlighting Sharjah's strategic location, he said that this is the only emirate that has access to the coasts of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, besides boasting a number of strategic ports, including the Port Khalid in Sharjah city, the Port Khorfakkan on the East Coast and Port Hamriya. The Sharjah International Airport, dating back to 1932, is the first airport in the region. On this occasion, the Director General invited the European media and industry partners to visit Sharjah and discover its cultural heritage and tourism experience, which has been attracting a large number of European tourists. Sharjah is an ideal holiday destination for European tourists because of its range of diverse activities and events suiting all ages, cultural, sports and recreational interests. The emirate boasts authentic Arab heritage, historical sites, golden beaches and sunny weather all through the year besides a diverse physical landscape including mountains, desert and long coastline offers plenty of leisure and recreational options. The European hotel guests occupy the first place in Sharjah’s international arrivals. The emirate attracted 409,585 European hotel guests in the first half of 2014, registering a 17% increase over the same period last year, which recorded 349,670 hotel guests. Sharjah’s hotels received more than one million guests in the first half of the year, up 15% from Year 2013. This reaffirms the successful and confident steps being taken by the emirate to attract more guests from around the world. The Sharjah delegation to the WTM London, besides the SCTDA, includes Sharjah International Airport Authority, Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas (EPAA), Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Coral Beach Resort Sharjah, Sharjah Museums Department and Universal Travels & Tourism. The Emirate of Sharjah and its tourism, heritage and festivals are being showcased at a 330-square meter pavilion at the London exhibition. Visitors to the stand are being greeted with a range of SCTDA publications, magazines and mini guides in English and Arabic. The Sharjah stand also unveiled a new Interactive Touchscreen giving visitors access to a greater variety of information and insight into the destination. In its 12th year of participation in the WTM London, being held from November 3 to 6, the SCTDA is keen to make the most of the opportunity to achieve a distinguished position for Sharjah among the world's leading destinations and global tourism industry stakeholde