Middle East travellers preferring ecotourism more

Atana Musandam features 110 rooms, and is a great family-oriented destination, while the Atana Khasab Hotel offers 60 luxurious rooms on the waterfront that are ideal for both leisure and corporate guests.

By Rohma Sadaqat

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Published: Sun 17 May 2015, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Jun 2015, 12:24 AM

Dubai: Ecotourism is fast gaining popularity across the Middle East, with travellers from the region increasingly looking to stay at resorts that focus on the protection of the environment through socially responsible and sustainable practices.

Ecotourism is intended to offer tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment, as well as foster a greater appreciation of natural habitats. Hospitality vendors in the region, and internationally, are increasingly offering a selection of ecotourism offerings and activities that are designed to tempt Middle Eastern travellers.

“Our focus is to raise awareness of Atana Hotels and to showcase the Omani hospitality we are so proud of,” said Pascal Eppink, managing director at the National Omani Hospitality Company.

“We are Oman’s first home-grown hospitality group and have many exciting development plans, so we need to forge strong ties with business partners who will work with us on a long-term basis,” he told Khaleej Times.

Asked about the various destinations in Atana’s portfolio of hotels, Eppink said that the group currently has five hotels, with the Atana Khasab Hotel and Atana Musandam being popular leisure hotels, located on the Musandam peninsula, just two hours driving time from Dubai.

Atana Musandam features 110 rooms, and is a great family-oriented destination, while the Atana Khasab Hotel offers 60 luxurious rooms on the waterfront that are ideal for both leisure and corporate guests.

“The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve is located on the eastern-most point of the Arabian Peninsula in Oman. Shortlisted as a World Heritage Site, this eco-resort offers luxury eco-tents and guided turtle viewing. We will also be talking about Masira Island Resort, 450km from Muscat and 15km off the southeast coast of Oman, offering miles of isolated sandy beaches and amazing wildlife reserves,” Eppink said.

He also noted that Atana Hotels are quite well-known locally, but the two eco-wildlife resorts have yet to achieve wider recognition. The fifth property under the Dhiaffa umbrella is the City Hotel Duqm, which is primarily a corporate hotel, popular with business travellers from the region.

Speaking about Oman as a destination for tourists from the GCC and the UAE, Eppink revealed that the eco-resorts are gaining popularity for turtle watching, particularly during the summer months. “We are hoping to introduce the two eco resorts to the UAE market and to promote them to the wider international traveller.”

Another vendor that is showcasing their ecotourism offerings to travellers in the region, also explained how bookings from UAE travellers had increased over the past few months.

“Bookings from the UAE has increased by more than 10 per cent over the past six months, the contributing factor being more awareness of our region,” said Tomas Kastberg Andersen, general manager of the Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa and the Gayana Eco Resort in Malaysia.

“We showcased two five-star resorts; the Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa, and the Gayana Eco Resort,” he explained. “We have a wide array of accommodation options, ranging from villas in a tree house, in the mangroves, in the rain forest, on the ocean or the Royal Villa which is a 6,500sqft two-bedroom villa with absolute privacy, a designated butler, chef, housekeeper, plunge pools and a private beach.”

The two all-villa resorts are either tucked away on the tropical hillside or perched on stilts over the clear waters of the South China Sea. The location is unique as Gaya Island, off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, is a private and secluded coral reef island with pristine beaches and jungle setting. Visitors are treated to extraordinary nature experiences on land and below water combined with all the modern comforts of an indulgent luxury holiday.

Asked to elaborate on travel to Malyasia from the Middle East, Andersen said: “We have witnessed an increased interest from Middle Eastern travellers, and families in particular, in the environmental luxury experience which we offer with our extensive range of nature activities such as becoming a marine biologist for a day, snorkeling the house reef, kayaking into the mangroves, doing a canopy walk above the rain forest or trekking into the dense jungle all the while staying in luxurious private villas.”

He added: “At our resorts you can learn or luxuriate or both. You can make an actual difference on your next holiday by preserving endangered marine species, and if you didn’t know that the Giant Clam is a mollusc and can grow as big as a bicycle, we can environmentally enlighten you and your children.”

rohma@khaleejtimes.com



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