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Abu Dhabi to develop Saadiyat Island as Major Tourism Destination

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) has unveiled a new public joint stock company charged with developing the Persian Gulf emirate’s real estate assets and its flagship Saadiyat Island project, which will transform the 27 square kilometre natural island, just 500 metres offshore the United Arab Emirate’s capital city, into a strategic international tourism destination.

The Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), which will oversee Saadiyat’s mixed-use development, will operate along strictly commercial lines, selling land to private investors who will then develop their plots in accordance with the masterplan, supporting planning regulations and design guidelines to create a new residential and tourism environment.

Saadiyat Island - Abu Dhabi - click for larger version

“Saadiyat Island will be the first of many projects falling under TDIC’s remit,” explained His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Executive Council Chairman.

“This is an important chapter in Abu Dhabi’s history. The creation of TDIC ushes in a new era of economic transition for the emirate, while the development of Saadiyat, a unique natural resource, represents one of the most vibrant episodes in the capital’s evolution.

“Saadiyat’s development will heighten awareness of Abu Dhabi’s plans for economic diversification and will reinforce the perception of the capital city as a regional, and international, business and tourism hub. Saadiyat is a symbol of Abu Dhabi’s renewed economic openness and a signal to the world that this emirate is very much open for partnerships and business on an international scale.

“Abu Dhabi has a business-friendly regulatory framework coupled with good infrastructure and sophisticated telecommunications technologies. It also has, over the years, proved itself as a solid, faithful and reliable partner for the private sector and overseas capital – a credible reputation which will stand us and TDIC in good stead both for the promotion of Saadiyat Island and going forward.”

Saadiyat Island, which translates from Arabic into Island of Happiness, will be developed in three phases from 2006-2018. Half the size of the tropical island of Bermuda, Saadiyat will be one of the Middle East’s largest single natural island developments.

“Saadiyat’s transformation is a key proposition in the Abu Dhabi government’s strategy of increasing tourism to the emirate from its current level of almost one million to three million by 2015 – a projected growth rate of 11.3% a year,” said His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman of both ADTA and TDIC.

“While this is somewhat conservative when compared to other destinations, it is in keeping with our desire to adopt a considered approach to ensure a high calibre of visitor and the safeguarding of our natural assets and culture for the benefit of future generations.

“Saadiyat will be a premier island destination as well as a modern, integrated residential community for Abu Dhabi, where residents can live, work and enjoy a full complement of leisure and tourism facilities, as well as civic and cultural amenities. One of the over-riding development criteria is the creation of this multi-faceted destination while retaining and enhancing the island’s natural beauty.”

Master planned to differentiate it as a centre of sophisticated elegance in one of the world’s most rapidly developing regions, Saadiyat, the island off an island, will eventually be home to 150,000 residents – a population approximately the size of Oxford in the UK or Hollywood in the USA.

Major development parcels are being offered to UAE and GCC investors on a freehold basis, with non-GCC investors being offered 99-year leases or 50-year renewable leases.

“There will be a variety of freehold homes provided by developers with the diversity ranging from elegant city-view apartments, spacious Gulf-view villas and secluded retreats overlooking nature reserves,” said Sheikh Sultan.

Saadiyat will have six distinct districts delivering a multitude of experiences with complementary environments and all connected by a palm-lined arterial freeway. The island will have 19 kilometres of white, sandy beach, two golf courses, 29 hotels with over 7,000 rooms, including an iconic 7-star property, three marinas with berthing for 1,000 vessels, over 8,000 private villas, resorts set on spectacular beaches, over 38,000 apartments and eight iconic ‘string of pearl’ architectural landmarks housing museums, a concert hall, art gallery and major cultural offerings.

“Saadiyat Island will be an idyllic postcard destination for Abu Dhabi much as Sentosa is to Singapore or Capri to Italy,” said Sheikh Sultan.

Lying to the North East of Abu Dhabi city and roughly equidistant between Abu Dhabi International Airport and the city centre, Saadiyat is a barrier island facing out into the Persian Gulf, protecting shallow lagoons. Much of the island to the east is characterised by ecologically sensitive mangrove reserves.

“The combination of Saadiyat’s natural environment and resources leaves Abu Dhabi well positioned to become an upmarket tourism destination differentiated by its leveraging of natural assets,” explained Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA and Managing Director, TDIC.

“TDIC will be responsible for the infrastructure of the island, which we estimate will cost around AED 5.5 billion or just over US $1.5 billion.”

Saadiyat will be linked to Abu Dhabi city via two iconic causeways, each with 10-lane freeways and one of which will have provision for light rail transport. Crossing the main bridge will mean a five-minute drive from Abu Dhabi city to Saadiyat with Shahamma Town and Abu Dhabi International Airport being only a 25 kilometre drive away.

“The Saadiyat Island masterplan embraces strategic transport initiatives when planning for the future. This will be an environment where the individual, not the car, will take priority, with pedestrian access and cycle paths throughout,” added Al Muhairi. “Consideration is also being given to facilities for future ferry services.”

Set to be an international development showpiece, TDIC will ensure quality conservation and environmental practices are used throughout Saadiyat Island’s development.

“These will include best practices for the conservation of energy and water,” explained Al Muhairi. “The Saadiyat masterplan is flexible to allow for long-term development and clearly demonstrates our responsibility in terms of environmental stewardship. We are committed to delivering a quality destination that will set Saadiyat aside from other developments with buildings and spaces that are responsive to the local culture and climate.

“Saadiyat Island is a sanctuary where nature’s gifts are played out with pristine, unspoilt beaches and a variety of bird life nesting in expansive mangrove reserves.”

The six Saadiyat Island districts are: Cultural District, Al Marina, Saadiyat Beach, South Beach, Saadiyat Park and The Wetlands.

To the west of the island, the Cultural District will boast a city-facing quayside, a 7-star hotel which will be visible from Abu Dhabi city, exclusive villas and breathtaking hotel accommodation. It will also be home to the architecturally outstanding ‘Black Pearls,’ which will house a national museum and concert hall as well as maritime and pearl historic centres with their own moorings and displays of boats and dhows.

Al Marina, with its three harbours and a central park, is the island’s commercial heart and where almost half its population will live. The district will have a host of civic amenities, large-scale shopping complexes and six of the architectural ‘pearl’ landmarks housing an international art gallery, the Royal Yacht Club, a media theatre and oceanarium.

At the Saadiyat Beach luxury resort, a championship golf course, dedicated sailing club and private beach clubs will create a celebrity see-and-be-seen atmosphere. Nine kilometres of pristine beach will be flanked by five-star resorts hotels. Golf course villas will all have panoramic sea or park views.

The city-facing South Beach will be reminiscent of Florida’s Daytona Beach with three and four-star hotels along the shoreline and a boardwalk complete with open-air eateries delivering a trendy café culture.

Saadiyat Park, designed around the island’s central lagoon, will be one of the destination’s main residential areas. Family-oriented, Saadiyat Park will have village hubs with the emphasis on high-quality waterside lifestyles and will be complete with an equestrian centre and amphitheatre for open-air concerts and performances.

The Wetlands is Saadiyat’s eco-address - where exclusive villas will subtly surround a unique golf course which will flood in accordance with the area’s tidal action. Dominated by ecologically valuable tidal flats, The Wetlands will be a haven of peace and seclusion with boutique eco-retreats and natural wetlands hosting eco-tourism activities, such as bird watching. The Wetlands will also house a marine research centre. 

“Saadiyat Island’s tourism offering will be expansive,” explained Al Muhairi. “In just one day on the island, visitors can explore and experience nature’s blessings. They can plunge into the warm [Persian] Arabian Gulf waters, stroll along pristine shores or sail out for a day’s fishing to return to the vibrancy of beach resorts or the tranquility of eco-hideaways and sensational sunsets.

“Saadiyat’s tourism offering will enable visitors to spend literally weeks on the island with something different to do every day.”

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