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MoCCAE announces national ecotourism project
July 06, 2018
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DUBAI: The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, MoCCAE, yesterday announced the launch of the ‘National Ecotourism Project’ to position the UAE as a leading global ecotourism hub.

“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,” said Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, at a press conference in Dubai.

He noted that the UAE recorded nearly 15.87 million incoming tourists in 2017, an astonishing 6.5 per cent increase over 2016, with revenues amounting to Dhs118.8 billion, as per specialised reports. These reports project tourist traffic to continue growing in the coming years to a record-breaking 25 million between 2020 and 2021, coinciding with Expo 2020 Dubai.

Dr Al Zeyoudi explained that global travel and tourism trends in the last decade have indicated the emergence of ecotourism, a concept widely embraced by tourists who seek to leave no ecological footprint behind while travelling.

The UN World Tourism Organisation defines ecotourism as a form of sustainable tourism that actively contributes to the conservation of natural and cultural heritage. By this definition, ecotourism and all nature-related forms of tourism account for approximately 20 per cent of total international travel.

“The national ecotourism project is a result of the country’s commitment to preserving the environment, a commitment instilled in its people by the UAE’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan,” he added.

The project will promote the country’s eco-tourism attractions in three phases that focus on environmental, economic and social factors. MoCCAE is currently working on the pilot phase that includes making ample information and promotional footage available under the theme ‘The UAE’s Natural Wonders’, to showcase the rich biodiversity across the country’s 43 protected areas.

He noted, “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. 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 minister said that for the project to become full-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. In the next phase, the ministry plans 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 the success of this phase depends on the cooperation between government and private entities that will provide relevant information to the ministry to share with the public.

The UAE possesses all the key ingredients to become an ecotourism destination of choice. While protected areas, distributed over 130 countries according to the United Nations, constitute only five per cent of the total surface of the earth, in the UAE, they make up 14 per cent of the territory.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi listed some of the benefits the UAE stands to gain from focusing on ecotourism, including protecting the environment, conserving natural resources, safeguarding biodiversity habitats, implementing sustainable practices across multiple sectors and ensuring healthier ecosystems.

He concluded by saying that ecotourism drives the wheel of the green economy through establishing green transportation infrastructure as well as eco-friendly hotels and other leisure amenities. As it promotes sustainable local agriculture, ecotourism also combats desertification and contributes to the growth of the GDP.


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