Full sail ahead for Sir Bani Yas Island eco-tourism plans

Sir Bani Yas Island, the Arabian Gulf’s only dedicated cruise beach stopover, is expected to shape up as the region’s first ecotourism destination.

The island, located offshore of Al Gharbia, will receive 65,000 passengers from 39 calls during the 2016-17 season, which runs from October to May, Abu Dhabi Ports said on Monday.

A beachfront is under development on the island, which has three luxury resorts. Once ready, the beach will feature wooden boardwalks, barbecue facilities, hammocks and cabanas besides dining and water sports facilities.

Sir Bani Yas, which is home to a nature reserve, started receiving cruise passengers last year. In November, the 114-passenger capacity Island Sky, owned by British tour operator Noble Caledonia, docked at the island for a day-long stay. Seaborne Sojourn, a 450-passenger capacity vessel owned by Florida-based cruise ship operator Carnival Corporation, made a daytime call a few days later.

Given the infrastructure under development, the island has a potential to attract more cruise stopovers, said Rashid Aboobacker, the associate director at TRI Consulting, a leisure consultancy in Dubai.

“Considering the variety of wildlife available on the island and the conservation activities undertaken there, it is a unique destination and is likely to attract continued interest from both local and foreign tourists,” he said.

During the 2016-17 season, cruise liners are expected to deliver 250,000 passengers from 151 calls to the emirate, according to Abu Dhabi Ports.

Last season, Abu Dhabi reported an increase of 16 per cent in passenger numbers from the previous season to reach 231,660 tourists, and a 20 per cent increase in vessel calls to 113, according to Abu Dhabi Ports.

“This impressive double-digit growth in the face of economic headwinds is a remarkable achievement,” said Mohamed Juma Al Shamisi, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Ports. “Ensuring that Abu Dhabi remains a preferred port of call for international cruise lines reflects our commitment to playing our part in meeting our wise leadership’s vision of diversifying the economy and positioning the emirate as a sought-after tourism destination.”

The emirate will ramp up marketing efforts to position itself as an archaeological, adventure and shopping destination, said Mohamed Al Mubarak, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.

Sir Bani Yas Island is a key element in that strategy, which will also promote theme parks, museums and shopping options.


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