The emirate of Abu Dhabi is planning to spend around Dh100 billion to give a major fillip to the tourism industry in its Western Region, which makes up more than half of the UAE's total land area.
The region, stretching from inside the famous Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali in Arabic, to Sila'a on the Saudi border and all the way to the border with Dubai and the Gulf coast, has been picked by the Abu Dhabi Government as the region's biggest sea and desert tourism and business destination, with several projects in the pipeline.
According to the Western Region Development Council (WRDC), which was established to promote the region lying outside the capital and its suburbs, a master plan will be unveiled for the development of the Western Region at the Cityscape Abu Dhabi exhibition and conference scheduled from Tuesday to Friday.
In a branding exercise, the WRDC will also announce a new iconic name and identity for the Western Region at the exhibition.
Mohamed bin Azzan Al Mazrouei, Director-General WRDC, said: "WRDC is proud to announce its participation at Cityscape Abu Dhabi. This event is the perfect platform for us to launch the new name for the Western Region and raise awareness about what the region has to offer, in addition to establishing key links with potential investors, developers, key organisations and tourists. The launch is part of our action-oriented strategy to showcase the true essence of the region, its potential and our plan to develop it, to primarily a local and regional audience."
The development plan, according to the council, will revolve around areas that have witnessed less business and commercial activities compared to the capital and its suburbs – mainly the vast rectangular area between Mussafah, Sila'a and Liwa, which are already being developed with multi-billion dirham tourism and hospitality projects.
The area beyond Mussafah, up to Saudi border and Liwa desert, will have a new name and logo to distinguish it from the rest of the emirate, but will remain a part of the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, said the WRDC
An official who wanted to remain anonymous, told Emirates Business: "As soon as you leave Mussafah and head towards Sila'a, you will see a signboard welcoming you to the 'new region'. For some time now, we have been racking our brains for the region's new identity that will be announced at the Cityscape."
She said the new identity has been decided as part of the strategy to promote and develop the entire region as a new tourism and business destination.
It would be a distinguishing element for the area "as many people believed the Western Region was beyond Mussafah".
"The area with the new identity will continue to be the part of the Western Region. Only now it will be called 'the new name, Western Region'," she added.
The WRDC has already announced estimated investments of Dh98bn for infrastructure, tourism and economic development in the region. "This amount is scheduled to increase further," the official added.
According to the council, the identity was arrived at after extensive market research across the UAE, GCC and internationally, involving not only local residents but also prospective tourists and investors.
According to Al Mazrouei, the council was paving the road to opportunity in a part of the country that has been least explored yet has all the potential to become a great desert destination for business and tourism.
Al Mazrouei said the development council is pursuing four key goals: economic and social development for the benefit of the region's people, enhancement of infrastructure, promotion of investment and improvement of enterprises.
The Tourism Development and Investment Company of Abu Dhabi (TDIC) has announced that Sir Bani Yas island, a former private eco-retreat of late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, will open for tourist from October.
The resort island is part of the Desert Islands project of the authority, which comprises eight islands and an onshore point just off the coast of Jebel Dhana, a 250-kilometre drive from Abu Dhabi.
Desert Islands, according to the authority, is expected to generate about Dh1.2 billion in tourism revenues when fully operational in 2020 and create 6,500 jobs.
In October's first phase opening, 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, being managed by Thai hospitality group Anantara Resorts and Spas.
Visitors can also enjoy traditional and international cuisines at the boutique resort's five-star food outlets at the Sir Bani Yas island.