Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 September 2019

Adventure tourism scaling new heights in the UAE

Tourism chiefs agree that there's been a growing trend over the last year to steer tourists towards getting outside into the country’s natural environment.
Zip lines and mountain climbing are just some of the outdoor attractions on offer in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National
Zip lines and mountain climbing are just some of the outdoor attractions on offer in Ras Al Khaimah. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Adventure tourism businesses are looking to change the world’s perception of Dubai from malls and beaches to something more rigorous.

One of these is Aventura in Mirdif, an adventure park with zip lines and obstacles that provides more active attractions for visitors while connecting them to the natural environment.

Hadi Fakhoury, managing director of the park, said there was “an element of conservation” among the adventure, as visitors swing through the endangered ghaf trees.

“We’re going to create paths across the whole area, first to guide people but mainly to limit them from walking in places that might affect the trees and the eco-system around them,” Ms Fakhoury said.

“We realise we need to protect the area. The roots of the trees are all over the place so we really need to protect them.”

The park is part of a growing trend over the past year to steer tourists out into the natural environment.

Mohammed Al Kaabi is one of the team setting up Hatta Mountain Biking, where four routes are now ready – from basic paths for everyone to extreme ones for experienced cyclists. In time, there will also be hiking trails and kayaking in the area.

“The aim is to make Hatta a getaway destination from Dubai,” said Mr Al Kaabi, an Emirati.

“People won’t believe it’s the Middle East, let alone Dubai, when they see it. On the routes, people will pass parks, traditional villages, farms, the heritage village, ending at the dam.

“It will truly show off the local nature and culture.”

Protecting the local environment was the priority, he said, which is why there had been no hurry to complete the project.

“We want this to be a place where the professional cyclists come as well as residents and tourists. We are preparing the infrastructure for 2020,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

Ras Al Khaimah has also set up zip lines, in the Hajar Mountains in November, including the UAE’s longest outdoor line at 300 metres. The adventures are combined with hiking trips.

“Our relatively untouched mountains, desert and coastline provide the ideal destination for those seeking extreme sports, hiking or watersports,” said Haitham Mattar, chief executive of RAK Tourism Development Authority.

Via Ferrata stretches between the Hajar Mountains and has three zip lines. Mr Mattar said there would be more such attractions coming.

“We are working on formalising hiking trails and cycling routes in the emirate to attract greater numbers of adventure and wellness seekers, who look for luxury indulgence and revival,” he said.

“The adventure tourism market is no longer a niche sector but a more encompassing one that attracts multitudes of travellers all looking for an experience-based holiday.”

Faisal Al Nuaimi, head of tourism in Ajman, agreed there was a demand for more adventure and activity travel in the country.

“Sports overall became a very strong tool that any tourist destination can use to promote the city, country or even the region,” Mr Al Nuaimi said.

“In the past five years I have seen very good growth in the number of people who are letting go of shopping malls as a preferred option to spend their time.”

mswan@thenational.ae

Updated: February 4, 2017 04:00 AM

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