Travel Unpacked: Dubai camping season to begin and Neom announces Leyja

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Dubai, UAE, May 4, 2017.  Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.  Platinum Tours camping ground.
Victor Besa for The National
ID: 97286
Reporter:  Melanie Swan
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A new sustainable tourism destination has been announced for Saudi Arabia's futuristic megaproject, Neom.

Meanwhile, in the UAE, Abu Dhabi is crowned third-best city in the world for winter sun, as a new Maldives airline celebrates its launch in Dubai.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

New Maldives airline to take off next month

Beond, a new premium airline from the Maldives, unveiled its aircraft livery this week at a global event in Dubai. Its first aircraft is an Airbus A319 for 44 passengers in an all lay-flat configuration, which will be on display at the Dubai Air Show next month.

The carrier's inaugural flights are scheduled to take off next month, with the first Riyadh flight departing on November 9, followed by Munich on November 15 and Zurich on November 17. Routes from Milan and Dubai will launch in March. Eventually, it aims to service passengers across Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

“Our aim is simple: To fly our customers to the most unique and unspoilt destinations where they can release their inner explorer on the most memorable vacation of their lives,” said Tero Taskila, chief executive and founder of Beond.

Saadiyat Island breaks Guinness World Record

The largest display of messages in bottles is what clinched Saadiyat Island a Guinness World Record this month.

Participants were asked to write a brief note expressing their fondness for the Abu Dhabi island or sharing their personal reflections on the idea of love.

These notes were then placed in 1,100 bottles and transferred to Saadiyat Beach Club where a local sand artist arranged them into a large installation that formed the words “I heart [in the shape of a heart] Saadiyat Island”.

All materials used were eco-friendly, including glass bottles, recyclable paper and jute thread, emphasising the island's commitment to preserving its natural environment and indigenous wildlife.

Neom announces Leyja, its latest sustainable tourism destination

Saudi Arabia's multi-billion-dollar, futuristic megaproject, Neom, has announced its latest tourism destination plans for a sector called Leyja.

The area begins at the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba and winds inland to form a valley carved between 400-metre-high mountains. About 95 per cent of Leyja will be preserved for nature, while the rest will combine ecological design and construction techniques to ensure the development blends into the landscape, according to a statement.

There will be three hotels, with 40 keys each, offering 120 boutique rooms and suites. The first property will focus on active adventure as the design ascends the walls of the wadi like a staircase, folding into a cliff top and valley sides. The second property will sit at the heart of the wadi's largest oasis, while the third will be a wellness retreat with a reflective facade mirroring the surrounding valley walls.

Fine dining restaurants and rooftop infinity pools will also feature, while guests will have the opportunity to go on guided wadi walks, mountain biking trails and rock climbing adventures.

Abu Dhabi crowned third in the world for tropical winter sun

A new study by British site Travelbag, part of air and travel services provider dnata, has determined the best destinations around the world for winter sun.

It looked at which cities have the greatest hours of sunshine per day throughout the season. It found Cape Town is the sunniest destination for a winter getaway, averaging 10.25 hours per day of sunshine between October and January, while Santiago in Chile came in second with 9.25 hours and Abu Dhabi was ranked third with nine hours.

Dubai came in fourth with 8.75 hours, tied with Doha, Phoenix, Bali, Johannesburg and Riyadh. Jaipur, in India, rounds out the top 10.

Dubai to launch winter camping season on Tuesday

The Dubai Municipality has announced the launch of its temporary winter camping season, which is set to begin on Tuesday and run until the end of April in the Al Awir area of the city.

Family-friendly camping areas have been set up for visitors to enjoy the desert during winter with all necessary equipment, services and amenities available to ensure a safe and comfortable experience.

People of determination and senior citizens are able to reserve spots at the front of designated camping locations, while sites have also been set aside for store owners to offer goods and services to campers.

Campers can start registering their winter camping requests at, and once those permits are issued applicants can construct their own camping space with a temporary fence as long as it's for family usage.

Amsterdam to increase tourist tax next year

Although Amsterdam already has the highest tourist tax in Europe, it's about to make it even more expensive to visit the Dutch capital, according to a new budget released by the city government.

A daily fee charged to cruise ship day visitors will go from 8 to 11 euros ($8.50 to $11.60), while the nightly fee built into hotel room prices will now be 12.5 per cent of the room rate.

“The tourist tax will be further increased to fund the extra spending so that visitors make a bigger contribution to the city,” reads the document.

This comes as the city tackles increasing issues of overtourism.

Updated: October 19, 2023, 10:44 AM