Ecotourism and its Impact on United Arab Emirates

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            The modern world has seen the emergence of tourism as a leisure activity people do not just on a holiday; it has become a growing and promising industry. While others associate it with the destruction of the environment, its apparent contribution to the various sectors of a country could not be discounted. Tourism is more notable for its many benefits to a variety of industries connected with transport or communication, hotel or accommodation, entertainment, food, and other businesses.

            However, the environmentalists’ apprehensions about the nature’s destruction may have some basis because the effects of tourism on the environment are significantly rising. Taken for granted in the past, the reported destructions now cause an alarming concern. This is because a lot of areas or tourist destinations worldwide are already ruined, leading to the devastation of the only attraction which entices tourists to visit an area. Hence, what the world needs now is tourists’ responsible visit to various attractions. Through this, the visitors would be able to enjoy themselves. At the same time, they would be able to maintain the world’s beauty and wonder while keeping the place relaxing to live in.

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Worldwide Tourism: An Overview

            According to the 2006 Fact Sheet on Global Ecotourism prepared by The International Ecotourism Society or TIES, there is now a significant growth of global tourism. The Travel and Tourism sector, being the biggest industry sector worldwide, is attributed to the generation of more than 230 million employments and the more than 10 percent of the gross domestic product or GDP in the whole world (TIES, 2006). This, in effect, results in an increase in international arrivals, ushers developing nations to higher degrees of prosperity, and makes other countries leave their status of being a least-developed nation (World Tourism Organization, 2000).

The same TIES report, however, also stated some negative effects of ecotourism such as the reported destruction of coral reefs, accumulation of more wastes, and irrigation problem because golf courses drench a lot of gallons of water (TIES, 2006). Despite this, TIES nonetheless acknowledges positive aspects of ecotourism with regards to its demand from tourists who now have an increased awareness and dedication to responsible tourism and ultimately, nature’s preservation and advancement of welfare of the local residents (TIES, 2006).

The Booming Ecotourism Industry

            Of the many forms of tourism, there is now a considerable rise of the ecotourism industry. This is because of the appeal to preserve the environment and uplift the welfare of residents who are living in the tourist area while at the same time enjoying what the nature can offer. TIES has defined the comparatively fresh idea of ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (TIES, 2006, 3). It likewise pertains to the effects of tourism on both natural and human environment wherein the conservation of the natural assets of the area by the local residents is encouraged (TIES, 2006).

            For TIES’ definition to be realized, there is a need for the local communities to take actions that will boost, oversee, and restrain tourism within their area in order to sustain tourism into the future. According to TIES, since ecotourism concerns “conservation, communities, and sustainable travel,” there are some principles to be followed (TIES, 2006, title page). These principles include lessening the effects of tourism; creating environmental and ethnical consciousness and esteem; giving affirmative happenings for both tourists and local residents as the hosts; providing authorization for the hosts and finally; and giving absolute monetary or financial payments for both preservation activities of the area, as well as the local residents (TIES, 2006).

            In relation to TIES report on ecotourism, Wearing and Neil (1999) stated that the development of ecotourism preservation is an offshoot of worldwide concern which was integrally connected with sustainability. According to Wearing and Neil (1999), the industry can create an environmental and social consciousness and esteem while at the same time offer positive happenings for both tourists and the host residents. The industry also aims to provide financial benefits for the residents of the tourist area (Wearing & Neil, 1999).

            Moreover, there is also a need to increase monetary support that will fund the preservation of the tourist destination. Ecotourism assists a person and an organization to concentrate on understanding the various cultures of the tourists’ destinations, appreciating the variety of dangerous undertakings, and preserving nature (Wearing & Neil, 1999). It also aids them to discover the positive implications of volunteerism, individual development, and the responsible ways of living in this planet (Wearing & Neil, 1999).

            At present, ecotourism now acquires an increased popularity because of a shift from the traditional holiday activity to an upscale tourism level (Stensgaard, 2007). Ecotourism has paved the way for the transfer from “highly packaged, standardized, traditional city or beach-based mass tourism destinations to more personalized, life-enhancing travel in attractive natural environments” (Stensgaard, 2007, n.p.). It is actually in this kind of tourism that holiday vacation infers not to merry-making but responsible visit to natural tourist destinations which needs the preservation of the environment and maintenance of the residents’ well-being within the area. It is also where deliberate effort is created in order to re-invest enough balance of income and conservation of the resources that the tourist destination offers. In addition, it should guarantee that the benefits brought about by the tourism in the area are felt or shared to local residents (Stensgaard, 2007).

Ecotourism in the United Arab Emirates

            United Arab Emirates saw the development of ecotourism in the area basically because of its advantageous location. UAE serves as a conjunctive connection between Europe and the subcontinents of India as well as the Far East and the continent of Africa. Tourism then performs the function of being a mediator between UAE’s wide array of cultures. The conventional hospitality of Arab nationals and the pleasing winter mood, balanced by high-rise and advanced buildings as well as the fact that the area is basically free of crime, led to the creation of a perfect environment for Ecotourism’s improvement. In addition, UAE is an ideal tourist destination because of its closeness to nature and adherence to conservation of the environment which allows for the realization of the primary purpose of ecotourism (UAE Government, n.d.).

            Ecotourism in UAE has resulted into a tremendous growth in infrastructure and massive structural evolution that is specifically kicking off at its coastline. However, it was noted that this development has badly affected the water and shore resources. This is because the excavation and filling activities which are required by the ecotourism industry have compromised and ruined precious ecosystems like the coral reefs. In fact, Stensgaard (2007) has reported that:

            As more and more resorts come up, additional pressures will be exerted on critical            water resources, soil and atmosphere; while the generation of even larger quantities of    waste will have to be dealt with, and landscapes will alter drastically as buildings          replace unspoiled beaches (n.p.).

            In view of this, it has been emphasized in UAE that ecologically insusceptible and neglectful operations will not be acceptable and feasible in a tourist destination where nature-conscious visitors are given importance. This has also resulted into some concerned sectors introducing ecotourism as a way to preserve ecosystems while at the same time creating consciousness of and reinforcement for nature conservation along tourists and local residents. Stockpiles of ecosystems at delicate tourist areas, with schemes for tourists to be involved in the appreciation and conservation of the environment, are now being undertaken. This is done because a nature-responsible tourism is a more sustainable and suitable growth concept (Stensgaard, 2007).

            While ecotourism in UAE has resulted in evident and alarming environmental concerns, its positive impact on the nation’s economy should not be taken for granted.  For instance, eco-friendly resorts have become very popular in the last decade. These resorts conserve the local environment. Yet, they still manage to bring profit to the local economy. Hence, the industry has opted for eco-friendly hotels and related establishments which can assist in working out the troubles that a lot of tourist areas are encountering when addressing and responding to the sustainable tourism growth.

            Gould (2000) mentioned that UAE has widened its scope with the opening of the initial ecotourism plan involving the 3,300 acre place that enables undomesticated animals to move around their natural environment. Likewise, the plan lets tourists to admire the serenity of the property. In effect, the resort area has led not only to the promotion of the ecotourism concept, but also to the creation of employments for the local residents (Gould, 2000).
Ward (2004) added that other UAE ecotourism resorts are into other forms of resource conservation, such as utilization of solar energy, and ecotourism programs, like hiring of local workers as well as provision of environment-friendly equipments for the residents of the community. Additionally, tourists’ direct confrontation with nature is being promoted as part of the country’s Ecotourism commitment (Ward, 2004).

            Ecotourism as a rising form of tourism is indeed aimed for the preservation of the environment and maintenance of the benefits enjoyed both by tourists and local residents. However, the demand for appreciation of nature definitely requires responsibility among all concerned people. In doing so, not only is the environment being protected, but also the future of the tourism industry. The tremendous development of foreign and local tourism has made the industry choose practical and nature-friendly programs that will assure the protection of the earth’s resources as well as sustain the future of the residents living in the area.


Gould, L.E. (2000). Desert Adventures. Travel Agent, 299, 4, 108.

Stensgaard, A.B. (2007, May 26). Finding a place for Ecotourism in the UAE.  AME Info.

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The International Ecotourism Society (TIES). (2006, September). Fact Sheet: Global

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UAE Government. (n.d.). Tourism. Retrieved June 3, 2008, from   

Ward, D. (2004, April 26). Welcome to the Jungle. Travel Trade Gazette.

Wearing, S. and Neil, J. (1999). Ecotourism: impacts, potentials, and possibilities. Boston:          Butterworth-Heinemann.

World Tourism Organization. (2000, July). Long-term Prospects: Tourism 2020 Vision.    Retrieved June 3, 2008, from


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