Abu Dhabi's Empty Quarter to become tourist hotspot



The islands off the coast of Abu Dhabi and the vast lands in the emirate stretching into the famous Empty Quarter, or the Rub Al Khali in Arabic, will soon become unique tourist destinations, the Tourism Development and Investment Company of Abu Dhabi (TDIC) said on Sunday.

Lee Tabler, CEO of TDIC, announced at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai that from October this year, tourists will be able to stay on Sir Bani Yas Island – which used to be the private eco-retreat of the UAE's late President his highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

"The opening of Sir Bani Yas Island, which is at the core of the multi-experiential Desert Islands destination, will be the first step in unlocking the latent potential of Abu Dhabi's Western Region," said Tabler.

Tabler was speaking about the opportunities within the western region, noted for its unspoilt beaches, dramatic desert terrain and other natural assets, including mangrove reserves.

The Desert Islands destination is expected to generate about Dh1.2bn in tourism revenues when fully operational by 2020 and create a total of 6,500 jobs, Tabler said. "The region's proximity to other GCC markets holds significant advantages," he told the conference.

Desert Islands, which comprises eight islands just off the coast of Jebel Dhana, a 250 kilometre drive from Abu Dhabi city, will be a flagship destination "designed to invigorate and inspire", according to Tabler. In its first phase, which opens in October, guests will be able to stay in the five-star, 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, or its beach villas and six two-bedroom Royal villas, managed by Thai hospitality group Anantara Resorts and Spas. Visitors can also enjoy traditional and international cuisines at the resort's five-star food outlets, including all-day dining restaurant The Palms, the seafood specialty restaurant Samak and a pool bar. In addition to guided desert safaris, the resort will also provide Arabian tents to camp at the beach for guests wanting to enjoy the traditional way. "Desert Islands has been planned as a regional benchmark in environmental, conservation and ecological tourism. The destination will help us assert our sustainability credentials. It will be the quintessential vacation escape enabling tourists to access the previously inaccessible," said Tabler.

The tourism potential of Abu Dhabi's western region will be given a further boost next year with the planned September 2009 opening of the deluxe Qasr Al Sarab retreat in the Liwa desert in the Empty Quarter. "Additional concepts for the region are currently being developed and will address the business as well as leisure tourism segments," Tabler said.


The Number

Dh1.2bn: The Desert Islands destination is expected to generate this amount in tourist revenues when operational