Environmental and economic sustainability through Nature-based Desert Tourism

Published: 13 March 2020
Last edited: 13 March 2020
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The DDCR has implemented a nature-based tourism offering in partnership with seven tour operators which allows over 250,000 visitors to the protected area on an annual basis. Effective planning and implementation of a zonation plan ensure environmental sustainability by limiting areas of environmental impact. Furthermore, each tour operator has an individual route ensuring a premium experience of wildlife in a pristine desert landscape as well as greatly enhancing safety for the visitor.

All visitors to the DDCR pay entrance fees, through the tour operators, which is used exclusively for the management and research requirements of the protected area.


West Asia, Middle East
Scale of implementation
Desert ecosystems
Hot desert
Ecosystem services
Protected area management planning
Standards/ certification
Sustainable financing
Land and Forest degradation
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Sustainable development goals
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected areas
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Business engagement approach
Direct engagement with a company


Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Dubai, Emirate of Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Environmental: On the establishment of the DDCR the number of tour operators using the area was reduced from 23 companies to the 7 we have today. Furthermore, driving is limited to designated routes within the DDCR, comprising a total area of only 9.65 Km², greatly reducing the negative impacts of visiting the area. This ensures that approximately 95% of the protected area has little to no impact from tourism.

Social: More than 250,000 visitors, both local and tourists, per year have the opportunity to visit a pristine desert environment and experience the beauty and tranquillity of the desert as well as seeing the indigenous wildlife. In addition, programs run with local university provide Emirati students with the opportunity to engage with the desert environment in a meaningful way.

Economic: Economic sustainability achieved through the model ensure the DDCR is not reliant on any external funding for the management or research requirements of the protected area. All revenue generated from entrance fees to the DDCR is dedicated exclusively to the management of the reserve. This includes extensive research and monitoring of the indigenous fauna and flora of the reserve and re-introduction efforts for locally extinct species

Contributed by

Greg Simkins