Tourism is another priority sector for Abu Dhabi which is targeting a substantial increase in visitor numbers over the next decade. Al Gharbia has abundant and in some cases unique natural resources that allow it to play an integral part of that objective. These assets include year-round sunshine, an extensive coastline and many undeveloped islands, a pristine and dramatic desert environment as well as rich traditional culture. Several important tourist developments have already been launched such as the Sir Bani Yas wildlife park and hotel resort which forms part of the ambitious Desert Islands project and the Qasr al-Sarab desert resort near Liwa.
Yet, much more can be made of the sector, which currently only generates AED 100-200 million towards the region’s GDP. Within 20 years Al Gharbia has the potential to attract up to 2 million leisure visitors a year by establishing itself as a primary short-break destination for UAE residents and as an “add-on” trip for international visitors to the UAE, especially tourists travelling overland from other GCC countries. By building on its current tourist assets, particularly in the areas of nature and cultural tourism, and by encouraging greater private sector participation in the sector value chain, Al Gharbia can establish tourism as a major contributor to the local economy, both in terms of GDP and employment opportunities. Business tourism is also forecast to grow significantly, driven by the development of regional anchor sectors such as energy and chemicals and represents another source of as yet relatively untapped potential for the region.