His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, chaired the first meeting of the Environment Business Council in 2019. The event took place at the headquarters of the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) in Dubai under the theme ‘Ecotourism – Economic Opportunities to Preserve the Environment’.
The meeting drew the participation of government officials as well as several major tourism players in the UAE.
Among the key issues tabled was the national ecotourism project ‘The UAE Natural Wonders’, launched by the Ministry last year. The meeting highlighted the important role of the project in creating a new revenue stream to contribute to the country’s GDP, support environmental protection efforts and ensure the sustainability of the country’s natural resources. Attendees also discussed the project’s direct effect in promoting the UAE’s competitiveness as a leading global ecotourism destination.
In his opening remarks, His Excellency Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “Since its inception, our country has always made environmental conservation a core priority. ‘The UAE Natural Wonders’ project is a prime example of an initiative that aims to help achieve our leadership’s vision for a sustainable future.”
He added: “In addition to providing a significant boost to the tourism sector, the ecotourism project is poised to create new economic opportunities in the local market that will also support other industries. At the same time, the initiative will help protect our environment and preserve the country’s biodiversity through developing collective environmental consciousness in our society.”
In closing, His Excellency Dr Al Zeyoudi said: “Global studies have indicated that one out of every five tourists in the world is an ecotourist. This number is expected to rise in the future, making it imperative for us – the government and the private sector – to work together hand in hand to attract the eco-conscious tourist.”
During the meeting, MOCCAE officials delivered a detailed presentation on ‘The UAE Natural Wonders’. The presentation offered information on the two phases of the project and an overview of the outcomes as well as the data that was gathered.
The presentation demonstrated the positive impact of boosting the UAE’s ecotourism credentials. From an economic point of view, the move will benefit all sectors and create new job opportunities. Meanwhile, from an environmental perspective, it will improve environmental protection and, in turn, enhance the overall health and well-being of the population in line with the objectives of the UAE Vision 2021.
The national ecotourism project helps advance the country’s transition towards a green economy that is part of the UAE’s national strategy. The initiative seeks to promote ecotourism sites, develop transportation infrastructure in line with the highest sustainability standards as well as establish hospitality facilities that are eco-friendly and minimize the consumption of natural resources. This will lead to improved environmental awareness and promote sustainable production and consumption habits among all segments of society.
The first phase of the project included producing a comprehensive set of information material (text, images and videos) pertaining to the UAE’s 43 natural reserves. The information is now available to the public through a microsite that can be accessed via the MOCCAE website, a smartphone and tablet app, and an e-book.
The second phase involved the addition of locations with historical, cultural and environmental importance to the microsite, app and e-book, bringing the total number of featured sites to over 100. Also included were eco-friendly sports sites as well as resorts, hotels and beaches that are recognized by international organizations for upholding high environmental standards.