A drive has been launched to highlight the tourism potential of some of the ‘natural wonders’ of the United Arab Emirates.
The National Ecotourism Project was unveiled by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) with the intention of positioning the UAE as a major global ecotourism hub.
The project will see an app and microsite launched by MOCCAE which will highlight the ecotourism potential of a number of destinations in the country, including Mangrove Park, Abu Dhabi; Al Marmoum Reserve, Dubai; Wadi Wurayah National Park, Fujairah; Sir Bo Na’air Protected Area, Sharjah; and Al Zorah Natural Reserve, Ajman.
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, feels that the UAE is uniquely placed to capitalise on the current trend for ecotourism.
He pointed to the fact that the UAE has 43 protected areas, making up 14 per cent of the territory here. This is well above the ratio for the total surface of the Earth, of which protected areas make up five per cent of the total territory.
“The National Ecotourism Project is a result of the country’s commitment to preserving the environment,” he said.
“Over the past few years, the pioneering vision and directives of the UAE leadership have enabled the country to consolidate its leading global status across diverse sectors, with travel and tourism at the forefront.”
The project will promote the UAE’s ecotourism attractions in three phases that focus on environmental, economic and social factors.
The pilot phase will provide information and promotional footage under the theme of ‘The UAE’s Natural Wonders’. An app and microsite will be launched by MOCCAE by the end of August, timed to coincide with the beginning of the UAE’s peak season for tourists.
“The Ministry is about to launch a dedicated website and app for tablets and smartphones to raise awareness of the protected areas among residents and visitors, and encourage travel agencies to include these sites in their promotional packages for the UAE,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
“The portal and app will serve as an information and visual resource that UAE embassies across the globe and national airlines can use to introduce these attractions to the world.”
The project will see the UAE working alongside stakeholders in other sectors across the country.
“For the project to become fully-fledged, the UAE seeks to leverage the fast-paced development witnessed in all sectors, particularly in the sustainable tourism domain that includes eco-friendly flights, hotels, beaches and campsites,” said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
“In the next phase, we plan to update the website and app with geographic locations and detailed information on these facilities and services to assist travel agencies in organising eco-friendly tours.”
He added that cooperation across all sectors is vital to the initiative's success. The UAE possesses all the necessary ingredients, he added, to become an ecotourism destination of choice.
Areas in which he expects the UAE to see immediate benefits include the protection of the environment, the conservation of natural resources, the safeguarding of biodiversity habitats, the implementation of sustainable practices across multiple sectors and ensuring healthier ecosystems.
Dr Al Zeyoudi also pointed out that ecotourism also promotes sustainable local agriculture and combats desertification while contributing to the growth of GDP.
Tackling pollution will also be a key facet of the scheme.
“Advantages of the project include protecting the environment through a proper legal framework, conserving natural resource and safeguarding biodiversity habitats, such as protected areas, that constitute the main pillar of this type of tourism,” he said.
The legacy of the campaign is another area in which Dr Al Zeyoudi is focusing his attention.
“We have to pass on the raw materials to the Ministry of Education to ensure they are able to make the future generations aware of what needs to be done,” he said.
“Raising that awareness is going to be a long-term challenge, it will not happen overnight. We are going to constantly updating our databases to ensure that we keep attracting more guests, the Ministry of Education’s involvement is crucial in this regard.”
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