Throughout the Middle Eas and Afrida (MEA) region, EWAA (eco, wellness, adventure and agritourism) is becoming increasingly popular, specifically within secondary cities, says a report.

EWAA tourism embodies a sustainable model centred around immersive experiences influenced by the local surroundings, fostering respectful interactions between visitors and host communities. Although not a novel concept, EWAA tourism is gaining traction and attracting more travellers seeking meaningful and eco-friendly adventures in the region, says Colliers’ recent report titled: “EWAA Tourism III: Trends, Impacts and the Future of EWAA”, prepared in collaboration with Bespoke Modular Solutions.

This is the third edition of Colliers’ EWAA white paper series, and it examines the impact of EWAA tourism on the local economy and focuses on the potential of modular construction.

It highlights the crucial role of this alternative form of tourism in shaping the future, concluding that responsible and sustainable practices are key to its success.

The study shows that emerging tourist hotspots, particularly in the Middle East, are transforming their rural landscapes to create destination-centric experiences that simulate local economies. Backed by solid government initiatives, countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are taking significant strides towards sustainable EWAA tourism, with pioneering projects such as Habitas AlUla and Hatta Sidr Trailers Resort.

Following a sustainable approach to lower environmental impacts and enhance ROI, there has been a shift towards modular design and construction, which is an innovative building technique that includes pre-fabrication of modules off-site. Compared to traditional methods, a modular build offers key benefits, including but not limited to reduced waste on the site, time-saving operations, controlled production, reuse & repurpose opportunities and minimal disruption to site surroundings.

The paper’s findings dictate that in order to reap the benefits and minimise the negative implications of introducing EWAA tourism, proper planning and management are key. This could involve implementing strict environmental regulations, offering educational programs for tourists, fostering community engagement and ensuring that the economic benefits of tourism are fairly distributed within the community.

Looking at the future of EWAA tourism in the region, the analysis concludes that the strength of the concept goes beyond the physical structure, relying rather on the coherence and consistency between the story-telling, design, service offering and social & ecological initiatives. For each phase of the project life cycle, critical elements must be considered to ensure the project’s durability, and proper resource allocation at the early stage can yield favourable returns when developing EWAA assets, despite the potential requirement for more time and financial resources compared to urban products.

Sara Ruggieri, Senior Consultant, Hospitality & Tourism, Colliers in the MENA region, said: “Embracing EWAA tourism is a crucial step towards sustainable growth especially for secondary cities of the MENA region, as it nurtures ecosystems, generates economic benefits while preserving natural habitat and capitalising on local culture.

"By focusing on responsible practices, EWAA tourism allows these lesser-known destinations to shine, empowering local communities through job creation and fostering a sense of pride in their heritage. The injection of tourism revenue enables the development of necessary infrastructure, improving living standards and diversifying economic activities while prioritising meaningful experiences for all parties involved, including tourists seeking genuine travel encounters,” she said.

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