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Emirates launches major new conservation initiative

Search ASIA Travel Tips .com 11 March 2003

The first internationally-recognised and fully-protected conservation area anywhere in the Middle East is now being established in Dubai - and visitors will be able to stay at the heart of it in truly luxurious surroundings.

Dubai's new Desert Conservation Reserve will be centred on the Al Maha Desert Resort, the Emirates Group cameo hotel outside the city, in a major initiative emphasising Emirates' commitment to corporate responsibility and environmental protection policies.

The nature reserve round the present Al Maha will be expanded almost tenfold to form the heart of a new 225 square kilometre Conservation Reserve, safeguarding nearly 5 per cent of Dubai's land and unique desert habitat.

Carefully planned improvements will be made to the resort, opening an exciting new chapter in its development. They will ensure it retains its place as one of the world's leading hotels, with facilities to rival the world's best,  while allowing a small rise in the number of guests able to sample the Al Maha experience.

The multi-million Dirham project was unveiled at Berlin's ITB, the world's largest travel fair.

Emirates Group Chairman, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said: "This ambitious project represents a major endorsement of Dubai's commitment to conservation, and will protect our unique and unspoiled natural desert heritage which is its top attraction for visitors.

"Our Government is responding to the urgent need for Dubai's fast-vanishing original natural habitat to receive the full legal protection it now requires, not just today but for the benefit of future generations. It will receive full Government and legislative recognition, benchmarked against  the toughest United Nations standards."

The urgent requirement for the Reserve has been thrown into sharper focus by Dubai's remarkable rate of expansion. Since 1980 its population has tripled, making it one of the world's fastest-growing cities.

By 2010, it expects 15 million visitors a year, boosting its booming economy but putting under threat the delicate balance between progress and preservation. The Reserve will provide the firm foundations now essential to managing this growth sensitively.

Dubai's environmental image will benefit from international endorsement, placing it firmly in the front row of world conservation, and acknowledging to its efforts to promote environmental good practice.

The new Reserve will provide a permanent refuge for Arabia's indigenous wildlife - the endangered animals, birds and plants unique to the region which it will actively manage as a national asset with guidance from a Management Board.

Since it opened in 1999, Al Maha has won many awards - most recently Condť Nast Traveller's Best Resort in Africa/Middle East and ASIA Travel Premier Travel Award for Excellence as the best hotel in Dubai -- and visitors have praised its high standards and genuine desert atmosphere.

Now the time is right for an upgrade. The average visit has risen from 2.2  to 3.4 nights. Repeat guests stay on average 6.8 nights, drawn by its  heritage attractions and unique relaxed, informal, personal service, with three staff on call at every suite, round the clock.

New facilities to be introduced during the quieter summer months include a communications centre to keep guests in touch with office or home, and  equipped with internet access, computing facilities, a private switchboard and fax machines.

A 60-seat boardroom, with state-of-the-art multi-media presentation  facilities and online video conferencing, will enhance its attraction as a private meeting venue.

To help guests stay in shape, there will be a gym with the latest professional  US and European fitness equipment and digital cardiac monitoring, as well as a spa with massage and relaxation facilities, steam  room and sauna.

Ten more suites will be incorporated near the existing 30, well away from the main reception area to maintain Al Maha's small, personal character. There  will be a wider choice of dining areas, and the highly popular personal swimming pools beside every suite will be much enlarged.

In the past four years, Al Maha has consistently supported conservation in Dubai. Now a new level of funding is needed to assure a future for sustainable tourism. Tim Clark, Emirates' Chief Director (Airline), says: "Its rivals are catching up, and it needs extra facilities and suites to stay ahead.

"Conservation is also high on the global agenda, but requires serious and sustained funding. As a principal Conservation Board partner, Emirates will invest up to 3 million Dirhams a year for the next five years, an amount  sufficient to make a real difference.

"Safeguarding our remaining unspoiled desert, and encouraging sustainable development, is vital to preserving the quality of Al Maha's visitor experience -- not merely in days and weeks to come, but for future generations," Mr Clark said.

Al Maha will provides a showcase for Arabia's unique culture and desert way of life, promoting traditional pursuits like falconry and camel riding, and providing the Dubai Government with advice on local and international  conservation.

The resort spends an impressive 5 per cent of turnover on giving sanctuary to the world's largest herds of oryx, the rare desert antelope now living safely again in its original habitat.

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