Due to its location the UAE has been able to act as a connecting link between Europe and the Indian subcontinent, the Far East and Africa since time immemorial. It is still playing the role of intermediary between these vastly different cultures, the only difference being that air travel has significantly increased the number of visitors who come to the UAE. Traditional Arab hospitality and a delightful winter climate complemented by a highly sophisticated infrastructure and crime-free environment, have also contributed in recent years to creating an ideal atmosphere for the development of tourism. The UAE is also endowed with an extensive coastline, sandy beaches and varied landscape, where a wide variety of activities can be indulged, ranging from powerboat races to sand-skiing. Manicured golf courses provide ready enjoyment and for the less active shopping opportunities abound. In addition, the country’s deep-rooted cultural heritage, accessible in the many cultural centers and at traditional sports such as falconry, camel- racing and horse-racing, has been a powerful attraction for tourists. The UAE has also become a much sought after venue for conferences, regional and international exhibitions and major sports events such as the Dubai World Cup, the Dubai Desert Classic Golf Tournament, and polo and cricket competitions.
Tourism organizations in the individual emirates actively market their own special attractions, frequently attending international holiday fairs as well as encouraging travel agents and tour operators to visit the UAE to experience the rich seam of Arabian life for themselves. Minister of Information and Culture Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced at the ATM 99 (Arabian Travel Market) that the Ministry is studying a plan to set up a federal body to coordinate the promotional activities carried out by tourism authorities in individual emirates in order to integrate tourism promotion in the UAE as a whole. Sheikh Abdullah called on local authorities to concentrate on developing elite tourism and to focus on the country’s heritage and culture. He noted that the selection of the UAE as one of the nine prominent destinations in the Middle East at the 1999 ITB Berlin travel and tourism show was an acknowledgement that the country’s tourism infrastructure and facilities were rated among the best in the world. Sheikh Abdullah stressed the importance of promoting inter-Arab tourism and also mooted the idea of Arab countries coming together to form a pan-Arab tourism body in the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi emirate was little known as a tourist destination until the discovery of oil financed its major development programme. A thoroughly modern infrastructure of air and sea ports, highways, telecommunications systems, five-star hotels, restaurants and entertainment complexes has turned the emirate into an active tourist center. Dubbed the Garden City of the Gulf, Abu Dhabi now offers visitors a variety of options ranging f rom green parks, clean beaches, a range of marine and other sports, exotic adventures in the desert, or the pleasure of shopping in its diverse shopping centers and malls. Tourists can also pay a visit to the oasis city of Al Ain and enjoy a sightseeing tour to archaeological and leisure sites such as Al Hili Fun City, Ain Al Faydha Resort, Al Jahili Fort or the National Museum. In 1997 some 937,717 people from neighboring countries visited Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company
Established in 1978 the Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company (ADNHC), plays an important role in the promotion of tourism in Abu Dhabi emirate. The total assets of the company were Dh 1.175 billion for the year ending 1998. ADNHC owns six hotels in the emirate and manages seven other hotels and a number of tourism outlets such as the Abu Dhabi Ice rink, as well as several rest houses. It also supervises the duty-free complexes at Abu Dhabi and Al Ain international airports and is involved in the development of several new facilities.
The company operates divisions for hotel management, catering and contract services, purchasing and tourism services and provides transport services through Al Ghazal, a wholly-owned subsidiary.
Al Futaisi Golf and Country Club
Tourist development in Abu Dhabi is ongoing and many new projects are under way. One imaginative scheme is Al Futaisi Golf and Country Club’s plan to transform Al Futaisi Island off Abu Dhabi into one of the UA E ’s most popular tourist resorts. The Club already has a restaurant, tent village, 18-hole golf course, horse riding track, beautiful beaches and a swimming pool. Forty luxurious chalets are being built and the island, which covers 45 square kilometers, is to have several species of local and migratory birds, sand gazelles, turtles, and horses, and is a haven for nature lovers.
Global Travel Awards
Worldwide acknowledgement of the great strides made in the tourism industry in the UAE was underlined when the UAE was awarded several international travel industry awards in March 1999, the most significant of which was the world’s safest holiday destination, a tribute to the high degree of personal safety experienced by visitors to this country. The UAE was also voted the best overall destination and best shopping venue, as well as runner-up in the dining out category, scoring just one point less than Italy. Emirates airline was voted the best international airline. The Travel Oscar awards were organized by Germany’s travel magazine GLOBO which surveyed 13,000 readers. The UAE had also received the safest destination award for 1996.
Independent studies show that the tourism industry has accounted for a steadily increasing percentage of Dubai’s GDP, with some estimates putting it as high as 20 per cent. In fact tourism is expected to over take oil exports as an important source of revenue in the near future. Dubai’s 255 hotels have a total of 17,253 rooms and occupancy in 1998 a veraged 49.3 per cent. Since January 1997 when the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (D TCM) took over from the Tourism and Trade Promotion Council, there has been renewed focus on worldwide promotion of Dubai as an ideal tourist destination and a thriving commercial center. This has involved setting up the DTCM representative offices in many countries across the globe as well as participation in numerous international tourism fairs. In addition, the DTCM has launched very successful advertising campaigns worldwide. The DTCM also organizes tourism-related exhibitions in Dubai. Early in 1999 it hosted the Arabian Marine Tourism Conference, the first of its kind to be held in the region. In May more than 500 exhibitors from 40 countries participated in the Arab Travel Market 99, which was also held under the auspices of the DTCM. Not surprisingly, since the number of tourists is expected to reach three million by the end of the year 2000, Dubai has a number of major tourism-related projects coming on-stream.
The endangered Arabian oryx is one of the showpieces of what is billed as the first ecotourism project in the UAE. The oryx also lends its Arabic name ‘Al Maha’ to the new resort, a luxury desert hideout and nature reserve. Al Maha resort, which opened its doors to its first guests in March 1999, is also home to other wildlife, such as gazelles, Arabian foxes and small cats, which have been reintroduced to the region, along with indigenous grasses and other flora. The resort, wholly-owned by Emirates Airline, lies 45 minutes by four-wheel drive car from Dubai airport. Covering about 25 square kilometers, it is surrounded by an electrified perimeter fence to keep the more exotic wildlife in and the camels which roam freely in the Arabian desert out. There sort consists of a main reception area and 30 suites which can house a total of 66 guests. Tented roofs and predominant use of ‘arish or palm fronds for fencing and ceilings are intended to evoke traditional bedouin camps, although the living conditions are rather more luxurious than those to which the original desert nomads would have been accustomed. The Emirates Group is planning two more five-star properties in the UAE. One of the luxury properties will be a 200-room hotel in the Emirate of Fujairah (see below) while the other will be located in Hatta.
Another major tourism project recently completed is the soaring 52-storey Arabian Tower, with its huge atriums, colossal supporting cross braces and acres of double glazing and aluminium cladding rising 321 metres from a concrete base on the seabed off Jumeirah beach. The impressive dhow sail-shaped building, the world’s tallest hotel, contains 202 luxurious two-storey suites and a restaurant with spectacular views of Dubai. The hotel is part of a complex which includes the award-winning 26-storey Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the 40,000 square metre Wild Wadi Park (see below), conference facilities, a marina, sports center, beach restaurant, tennis courts and a variety of swimming pools.
Royal Mirage Hotel
The Royal Mirage, an opulent 250-room beach resort, opened in mid-1999. Located on Jumeirah beach, the resort has been designed to reflect the splendour of a rediscovered Arabian fort ress. With a majestic 70-foot gilded dome, the hotel promises to link Arabia’s enticing culture with the demands of twenty-first-century leisure. Focus is on the most highly prized virtues of the Arab world, hospitality and courtesy. The hotel has 64,000 square metres of manicured desert landscape and 800 meters of private beach with a dedicated water sports and recreational facility, including sailing, kayaks, windsurfing, pedals, water-skiing, snorkeling and water polo.
Wild Wadi Park
In addition to developing luxury hotels and restaurants, the UAE has focused on providing superlative entertainment and leisure facilities. Wild Wadi Water Park, which claims to be the world’s leading water adventure theme park, is one of the most recent projects in this field. Located adjacent to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the water park draws on the rich heritage of Arabian myth and legend for its design and resident cast of characters. Situated on 5 hectares of land, the park is built to resemble a typical wadi with water rides extending for a hair-raising 1.7 kilometers. Lush green vegetation amidst the ruins of a long-lost civilization add a touch of scenic beauty.
Fujairah Tourism Bureau
Fujairah Tourism Bureau was established in 1996 to market the emirate’s considerable tourist attractions, which include such diverse activities as watching bloodless bull-wrestling, visiting mangrove forests and bird-breeding sites, or navigating the steep mountain roads and narrow gorges of the Musandam peninsula. The area between Al Faqit and Al Aqqah, just south of Dibba, is already a popular destination for holidaymakers, thanks to its long, sandy beaches and many snorkeling and scuba-diving sites. Fujairah Tourism Bureau recently signed a contract with the Belgian Three Corners Emirates Company to build a 150-room resort in Al Faqit. The Dh 34 million Fujairah Resort will be constructed on 35,000 square meters. In addition, Emirates plans to build a five - star, 200-room hotel in Al Aqqah which will be operated by Meridien Hotels. Several other projects are also set to commence in the near future: a spa in Ain Al Ghammour, two diving centers in Dibba Al Faqit and a large marina and golf course in Al Aqqah near the Sandy Beach Motel.
Other emirates are also developing their tourist facilities. For example, the Ajman Kempinski Hotel and Resort, a new 200-room 5-Star beachfront property, opened in October 1998. With extensive leisure facilities, including deep sea fishing and wreck diving from the hotel’s own boats, water-skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, bowling, tennis, fitness center and spa, the Ajman Kempinski also offers a range of business and conference facilities. cheap replica watch
Tourism in the UAE is not entirely about luxury for there are youth hostels in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah and several new hostels are planned for the year 2000. An agreement between Dubai’s travel and tour operator, DNATA, and the Youth Hostels Association (YHA), concluded in May 1999, making it the first UAE travel agency to sell international membership in YHAl
Sir Bani Yas
Sir Bani Yas, around 160 km. west of the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, has an area of a little over 80 sq.km. Its central hills, rising to a height of over 130 metres, contain the oldest rocks visible anywhere in the country. Of Cambrian date, these are over 600 million years old. The island contains archaeological sites from the Late Stone Age (7000 years ago) onwards. The most important is a Christian monastery dating from the late pre-Islamic period. Today, under the personal guidance of UAE President HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the island is a major centre for the captive breeding of endangered wildlife, with herds of several hundred Arabian oryx and several thousand Sand Gazelles and Arabian Gazelles, some of which are being reintroduced to the wild, as well as other species. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded on the island, where more than two million trees have been planted as part of an afforestation programme.