Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) is throwing its weight behind the campaign for the Bu Tinah Island to become one of the "seven wonders of nature". The move comes as it tries to fend off competition from global attractions such as the Dead Sea, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. Located 130km west of Abu Dhabi, within the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, the archipelago is one of 28 locations worldwide on a final shortlist, after more than 440 nominations were received from about 220 countries to become one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
The initiative is being run by the New7Wonders Foundation, a Swiss-based, government-controlled foundation. The island, which is not open to visitors, has rare animal and marine life, including hawksbill turtles, dugongs and many species of birds as well as coral reef. Laila al Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD), said the agency was trying to generate support from other companies.
"We would like to see private-sector companies come on board for this campaign," said Ms al Hassan. Abu Dhabi plans to spend Dh28 million (US$7.6m) promoting Bu Tinah. TDIC said it was providing both financial and non-financial support for the project, including promotion of the island. As well as raising awareness of the fragility of the marine environment in Abu Dhabi, Ms al Hassan said the campaign had other benefits for the emirate.
"It's also important from a cultural heritage point of view because it's one of the few places that haven't been developed and is still wild," she said. Despite the even greater publicity and interest that would be generated if Bu Tinah were successful in the campaign, Ms al Hassan said there were no plans to open up the island to tourism. The "new seven wonders" are scheduled to be announced on November 11 next year. The process is based on an online poll that is expected to attract millions of voters.
"The conservation, preservation and sustainability of the environment are part of TDIC's philosophy," said Ahmed Hussein, the chief operating officer of TDIC, which is the master developer of Saadiyat Island, designed to become the emirate's cultural centre with attractions such as branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. firstname.lastname@example.org