Abu Dhabi the largest of the seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates and home to the capital city is to create a unique multi-experience tourism destination, a culmination of the natural heritage and eco-tourism vision of the UAE's late President His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The Desert Islands destination which lies off the emirate's western coastline will consist of eight islands and an onshore gate providing a multitude of experiences encompassing a nature reserve, a cultural destination and a showcase for world-class environmental, conservation and ecological tourism, including the Arabian National Park.
"This project embodies Abu Dhabi's ambitions to develop its islands and other natural resources in line with the guidance and vision of UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to progress the tourism sector in the UAE capital," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. "Such projects will contribute to the generation of career and training opportunities for UAE nationals. This will be a world class tourism destination with local, regional and international appeal and one which will be developed in line with the environmental and heritage legacy laid down by the late UAE President His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan."
Designed as a sanctuary of nature and authenticity unique within the Arabian Gulf, the Desert Islands will significantly raise Abu Dhabi's international tourism standing creating a singular destination with experiences rivalling those of the Caribbean and the Maldives. The Desert Islands comprise the former Royal nature reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island Dalma Island and the Discovery Islands six nearby offshore outcrops all of which will be linked by a ferry and hydrofoil service, water taxis, private 'resort' boat service and regional and sea planes.
"Masterplanning of the Desert Islands has been subject to intense sustainability governance including landscape, water, coastal, energy and cultural heritage management as well as land and marine ecology," explained His Excellency Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and of Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), which manages and develops ADTA's tourism assets. The overall sustainability strategy is being developed jointly by TDIC and Masdar, the Abu Dhabi Government's new advanced energy and sustainability initiative."
The Desert Islands will have a variety of accommodation from five-star hotels to small family resorts in all 4,000 hotel rooms will be created. The first hotel a 64-room, five-star property on Sir Bani Yas is already under construction and will open at the end of this year. It will be managed on behalf of TDIC by an international operator with an appointment expected around June this year. ADTA believes the Desert Islands will attract around 250,000 visitors when the first phase is complete in 2010, rising to over a million a year a mix of day trippers and overnight stayers by 2017, with visitors arriving by plane, cruise ship and ferries. Development of the destination is to be phased, at an estimated total investment from both the government and private sector will be more than US $3 billion (AED 11.5 billion).
When fully operational the Desert Islands are expected to annually generate AED1.2 billion (US $326 million) in tourism revenues, and create a total of around 6,500 jobs.