Ecotourism in Abu Dhabi - Abu Dhabi Investment Office
  • Sector Overview
  • Programme Overview
  • Requirements
  • Application Process

Sector Overview

Endowed with incredible biodiversity, Abu Dhabi is home to spectacular wildlife reserves and cultural sites in stunning desert and coastal settings. With around 200 islands uniquely scattered, the emirate is fast developing into one of the most exciting eco-tourism destinations in the Middle East.

The rich natural environment features a unique mix of topographic and ecological diversity making Abu Dhabi a must-visit destination for local and international visitors. With generous support from the Abu Dhabi

Government, the emirate is committed to protecting its rich biodiversity and developing ecotourism into one of its prime tourism offerings.

Three locations in Abu Dhabi have been identified for ecotourism developments: the beachfront area of Al Marfa, desert locations and privately owned islands along the coastline.

Al Marfa is one of the premier beaches along the Abu Dhabi coastline with one existing hotel and a beach resort under construction. There are also plans underway to create a marina for small to mini yachts. Al Marfa is known globally as a pristine bird watching sanctuary and hosts the Al Marfa water festival every year.

Deep into the Abu Dhabi desert is one of the world’s largest dunes, Tal Morib. Home to the majestic five-star resort, Qasr Al Sarab, as well as attractive 3- and 4-star hotels, the area is also dotted with historic fortresses and rest houses.

Abu Dhabi provides generous financial incentives and a wide range of benefits to business and individuals engaged in local ecotourism. With globally competitive, zero percent income and corporate tax rates and world-class infrastructure, Abu Dhabi is an attractive choice for ecotourism investment.

Programme Overview

Our Ecotourism programme is working to support the growth of Abu Dhabi’s ecotourism ecosystem and position the emirate as a global ecotourism destination.

The programme includes highly competitive and comprehensive incentive packages. These packages are available for private developers, hotel operators and individuals looking to invest in ecotourism. Packages may include land lease exceptions and tax waivers for projects completed before January 2022, as well as rebates and/or grants for marketing and infrastructure expenses. Administrative support with licensing and permit processing is also offered through the programme.

Three locations in Abu Dhabi have been identified for ecotourism developments:

 

  • Al Marfa: Affordable and environmentally friendly low-rise beachfront destinations
  • Desert Locations: Eco-friendly destinations for natural attractions and adventure activities in Liwa, Alwathba, Al Khatim and Sweihan
  • Private Islands: Privately owned islands with luxury eco-friendly resorts and environmentally protected pristine beaches
     

Requirements

Each location has its own set of criteria:

  • Al Marfa region is seeking an affordable eco-friendly bungalow style 3- or 4-star hotels located in an area zoned for tourism. Offerings should include environmentally friendly ecotourism activities highlighting Al Marfa and its natural surroundings.
  • Desert locations including Liwa, Alwathba, Alkhatim, and Suwaihan - Proposed projects in selected desert regions should have eco-friendly characteristics and be within a maximum 3-hour drive from central Abu Dhabi; proposed hotel projects are only eligible if they are located at least 1 hour away from city centre. Offerings should include access to natural attractions and adventure activities.
  • Private islands - Proposed projects for private island development should consider islands within a 2-hour journey from central Abu Dhabi. Offerings should include luxury eco-friendly resorts offering water activities that have unique value propositions and enable access to the natural environment around the islands.

Other criteria:

  • Compliance with environmental standards and low carbon footprint
  • A significant presence in Abu Dhabi
  • Construction completion date prior to January 2022

Application Process

1. Register your interest here.
2. Introductory discussion with our team 
3. Submit your preliminary project concept and expected project financials
4. ADIO to assist in coordination with relevant government regulators and stakeholders who will submit comments to be implemented in order for project to proceed
5. Final project concept and expected project financials submitted for review
5. Undergo due diligence on company financials
6. If approved by ADIO and relevant stakeholders – receive a proposed incentive package
7. Sign a definitive agreement with ADIO

 

RELATED FAQs

Below you will find answers to the questions we get asked the most

ADIO is offering incentives under four categories:
1. Fiscal incentives - land lease exemptions and tax waivers
2. Administrative support - licensing and permit processing
3. Marketing investment matching for projects in prioritised locations
4. Infrastructure investment - to facilitate connectivity to sites

Abu Dhabi’s rich natural environment offers a unique mix of topographic and ecological diversity, which attracts local and international visitors to the emirate. Abu Dhabi is committed to protecting and managing the emirate’s rich biodiversity and further developing the ecosystem.

Fill out this form to express your interest in the incentive programme Apply Now.

Private investors are eligible for incentive packages including but not limited to private developers, hotel operators and individuals.

Yes, we are offering incentives to all developers interested in ecotourism. This includes those who are new to Abu Dhabi, as well as those already present in the market and looking to expand.

There is no fixed number, we encourage all interested parties to apply as soon as possible.

The duration of the entire process will depend on:

• The time it takes for the company to share details on its proposed project, business plan, financials, construction plan etc.

• The government approval process for environmental compliance and alignment with Abu Dhabi’s tourism vision.

Each location has its own set of criteria:

• Al Marfa: Proposed projects should be affordable, eco-friendly and located in an area zoned for tourism (e.g., bungalow style 3 or 4 star hotels). Offerings should include environmentally friendly ecotourism activities to explore the area of Al Marfa and enjoy the natural offerings in the area.

• Desert Locations - Liwa, Alwathba, Alkhatim and Suwaihan: Proposed projects should have eco-friendly characteristics and be within a maximum 3-hour drive from Abu Dhabi city; proposed hotel projects are only eligible if they are located at least 1-hour away from city centre. Offerings should include access to natural attractions and adventure activities.

• Private Islands: Proposed projects should be on an island within a 2-hour journey from Abu Dhabi city. Offerings should include luxury eco-friendly resorts with water activities that offer unique value propositions and enable access to the natural environment around the islands.

Other criteria:

• Approval of construction and operation environmental standards and low carbon footprint by the Environmental Agency, Abu Dhabi
• A significant presence in Abu Dhabi
• Construction completion date prior to January 2022

Yes. The incentive packages are targeting three main areas in Abu Dhabi:

• Al Marfa: a 1-hour drive from Ruwais and 1.5-hour drive from Abu Dhabi city. Al Marfa is surrounded by small islands and is a desirable location for eco-friendly activities like bird watching and snorkeling

• Desert Locations: Locations include Liwa, Alwathba, Alkhatim and Suwaihan.

- Liwa is a remote desert area in Abu Dhabi with the world’s largest sand dunes and home to the famous Qasr Al Sarab - voted recently as the most instagramable hotel in the world. Liwa offers cultural trails and oasis exploration. Located in driving distance from Abu Dhabi city the area is a prime location for day trips and off-roading activities.
- Alwathba Al Khatim and Suwaihan are close to Abu Dhabi city for day visits.

• Private Islands: Abu Dhabi boasts more than 215 privately owned islands that have the potential to offer luxury stays and position Abu Dhabi as an island-hopping destination

The key steps are as follows:
1. Register your interest online on our website
2. Submit your basic company information
3. Have an introductory phone call with our team to discuss further details
4. Submit detailed additional information
5. Deliver an in-person pitch at the ADIO
6. Receive a comprehensive incentive package
7. Sign a Memorandum of Understanding with ADIO
8. Transition to Abu Dhabi!

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