Al Ain zoo being tranformed into $1b leisure destination

DUBAI - Al Ain Zoo is being transformed into a $1 billion leisure and wildlife destination and the first phase of the development is due for completion by the end of 2010. Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort visitors will be an integrated entertainment, hospitality, retail and residential development.

By Lucia Dore (Assisstant Editor, Business)

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Published: Tue 22 Jan 2008, 8:54 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:34 PM

Residing at the foothills of Jebel Hafeet, the project will cover 900 hectares, of which more than a third will be dedicated to wildlife desert safaris. The deserts being created are those of Arabia, Africa, Central Asia, Chile, Sonora and Australia, with the deserts of Arabia and Africa being the first to open. There will also be an interactive science and learning centre, and botanical gardens.

Previewing the project for the first time at the Tourism Development Projects and Investment Market (TDIM), Hanan Sayed Worrell, a member of the executive committee of Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, said: "We want to showcase different deserts from around the world, focus on cultural landscapes, biodiversity and ecology."

The park will accommodate two million visitors a year, she said, but also emphasised that the aim was not only to cater for the millions of tourists who visit Abu Dhabi and Dubai each year but to serve the local community as well. As a consequence, the target audience is "layered," designed to appeal to Al Ain residents, GCC nationals as well as to expatriate residents and international visitors, Worrell said. "It's all layering the experience and pricing," she said.

A third of the site will be residential, with somewhere between 700 and 750 units being built- a combination of low-rise villas and apartments, "These will be residential communities that will be integrated into the park and this will be done in a sustainable fashion and sensitively," said Worrell, while emphasising that safety and security was a top priority. Construction on the first units will start in the last quarter of the year, she said.

But whether these residential units can be bought on a freehold basis depends on a decision yet to be made by the Abu Dhabi authorities, she added: "A decision on whether they will be freehold or not has not yet been decided."

The park will have two hotels - a five-star and mid-market type hotel - with easy access to retail facilities and an oasis theme water park. The retail complex will be a themed environment, with a shopping mall, cafes and restaurants.

The Abu Dhabi Government is funding the majority of the project, said Worrell, and "other potential investors and real estate developers will be integrated into this".

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