6 July 2020
Under the patronage of His Excellency Prof. Hamid M.K. Al Naimiy, Chancellor of the University of Sharjah, the University's Al Dhaid Branch held the "The Third Tourism Forum", which comes this year under the title "The Future of Tourism and Travel in Light of COVID-19: Possible Scenarios". This is using the remote communication program Microsoft Teams, and with the participation of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), the Muscat Securities Market, King Saud University, Kuwait University, Mosul University, Umm Al-Qura University, the University of Jordan, and the Gulf International Hotel and Resort in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This Forum is significant due to the exceptional unprecedented circumstances experienced by the tourism sector in various parts of the world and the Arab world in particular because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused great losses in the tourism sector due to the near-total disruption of the sector and layoffs because of lack of travel domestically and internationally. Stemming from the framework of the University of Sharjah's scientific and social responsibility to be a key partner in supporting the various economic sectors, especially the tourism sector, the University worked to hold this Forum to provide support to the tourism sector, and to push towards the return of tourism to its natural activity. The Forum's discussion was moderated by Dr. Saleh Muhammad Zeki, Vice Assistant Chancellor of Branches Affairs (AlDhaid Branch).
Twelve academics and experts in the field of tourism from the United Arab Emirates and 6 Arab countries participated in this Forum. It started with a speech by His Excellency Prof. Adnan Ibrahim Sirhan, Assistant Chancellor of Branch Affairs, on behalf of the University Chancellor. He welcomed the attendees and participants in the Forum from all participating Arab countries, and also stressed the importance of the tourism sector as an economic sector that has become larger than many other economic sectors in terms of gains and contribution to the gross domestic product. The University of Sharjah, he added, will continue to hold seminars and forums and everything necessary to help in the restarting of all economic sectors among which is the tourism sector.
Then the Chairman of the SCTDA His Excellency Mr. Khaled Al-Midfa, gave a speech in which he stressed the importance of the return of the tourism sector, indicating that Sharjah is restarting many tourism activities with an absorptive capacity not exceeding 50% gradually raised according to the reports received from the field. He confirmed that the return of tourism activities to their former state will take approximately two years, indicating that the crisis had major impacts and sectors need a period of recovery, indicating at the same time that the sector is flexible and will be able to overcome all crises.
Then the Forum session started, in which a group of experts and academics from inside and outside the UAE participated, where Dr. Salah Abdul Rahman Al-Talib, Academic and Economist at the Muscat Securities Market in the Sultanate of Oman, addressed his paper in which he talked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals' incomes and its reflection on the tourism movement. He also highlighted the effects of this pandemic on the global economy and the economies of the Arab region, stressing the need to activate inter-Arab tourism.
Then Dr. Ahmed Munir Al-Najjar, Academic, Economist and Supervisor of the International Trade Organization unit in the College of Business at Kuwait University, presented a scientific paper in which he talked about an economic reading of tourism activity in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated the reality and future aspirations of this sector, where he stressed the failure in market mechanisms that included supply and demand, which is unprecedented in economic history.
Dr. Imad bin Mahmoud Munshi, Assistant Professor at King Saud University and Advisor to Tourism and Tourism Events in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, addressed in his speech issues of risk management in the tourism activities and destinations under the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he outlined the effects of the pandemic on many tourism activities and tourist destinations in Saudi Arabia and what are the safest destinations to attract tourist groups.
Dr. Ziyad Al-Rawadiya, Academic at the University of Jordan and the Former Dean of the College of Tourism and Antiquities in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, addressed in his speech the human resources working in the tourism sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. He addressed some procedures and policies that many Arab countries dealt with such as the loss of jobs, indicating the importance of protecting the workforce in the tourism sector through financial packages that alleviate the crisis until the sector returns to its former era.
As for Prof. Maan Wa'adAllah Al-Maidadi, Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Mosul in Iraq, he stressed in his paper the importance of proposing strategic remedies to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Arab tourism sector, stressing the need to adopt a strategic vision and clear plans to deal with this crisis to save profits in the Arab tourism sector.
Then, Dr. Ali Ahmed Al-Qasim, Assistant Professor at Umm Al-Qura University in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, discussed his paper in which he assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the potential consumer behavior of tourists drawing evidence from the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, where he clarified the size of the change that the crisis will bring about the behavior of tourists and travelers. He added that a new tourist map will be presented to tourists to choose their travel destination, as the recovery of many countries early will make it a focus for tourists.
As for Mr. Yazan Al-Hayek, Consultant and Expert in Hotel Operations at the Gulf International Hotel and Resort in the Kingdom of Bahrain, he stressed in his speech the importance of hotel operations in light of COVID-19, and the great changes that took place in the nature of these operations to protect the tourist and the guest in accordance with high-quality health requirements that made all hotel companies restructure their operations.
Finally, Mr. Muhammad Yusuf, Senior Advisor in the SCTDA, and Mr. Ahmed Al Tunaiji, Director of Tourism Standards Department in the SCTDA, presented a statement of the importance of the health protocols for the return of the tourism sector in the Emirate of Sharjah, which will play a role in restoring the confidence of many tourists in the health safety of their destinations.
Dr. Mohamed Abu Shouq from the University of Sharjah also pointed to the importance of artificial intelligence applications in the tourism industry in the future, outlining examples of the nature of these applications in various tourism facilities.
Finally, the University of Sharjah submitted an initiative prepared by Dr. Asaad Hammad Abu Rumman, Academic at the University of Sharjah and the General Coordinator of the Forum, in partnership with Dr. Imad Abu Al-Anini, Academic at the University of Sharjah, which included an invitation to participate in the chapters of a book titled: "Tourism Industry in the Shadow of Crises: Opportunities, Impacts and Consequences." It is scheduled for publication following its arbitration and approval as a scientific book published in both languages (Arabic and English). This initiative is aiming to gather in this book all experts and academics in the field of tourism and hospitality from all parts of the world to participate in the completion of this project and to provide their expertise and experiences to the sector to enable it to overcome crises, whether current or in the future. This project has four parts, each part contains four chapters, and will be available on various means of communication technologies to receive the contributions of all experts and academics.