The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) – the Middle East’s largest travel and tourism trade show – always means big holiday (and staycation) news for UAE residents. Here’s our pick of the most exciting developments out of the 24th edition.

Sharjah is getting a Dh60m desert resort

Sharjah’s Mleiha Archaeological and Eco-tourism Project will open a five-star destination at the heart of the historical site by the end of 2019. This means that you won’t have to dune-bash to see some of the UAE’s most iconic desert sites – it will be located between the area’s dunes and the famous Fossil Rock. The resort will include 45 vacation villas modelled on classical desert marquees, each with its own decking and private swimming pool. While being entirely detached, with privacy guaranteed, guests can enjoy a sense of community, enhanced by a central communal area fashioned in the canopy style as well as a Sahara-themed living experience. The resort, a venture between Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Al Wanis, a Qatari tourism company established in Sharjah, will also offer restaurants, cafés, a health club, swimming pool and other world class hospitality facilities.

DAMAC Maison Royale The Distinction will open in June

Dubai’s downtown district will add a brand new hotel to its skyline in June – the five-star Damac Maison Royale, The Distinction by Damac Hotels and Resorts. The fifty-two-floor hotel will have 305 keys including fully-serviced deluxe rooms and one, two and three-bedroom suites with a full kitchen. The property will also feature amenities like a spa and health club, a kids club and a Casper & Gambini restaurant. Five-star luxury is accompanied by customer-friendly policies such as 24-hour check-in and check-out and stay policy and a no-tipping policy.

One&Only launches nature-friendly resorts

ATM 2017 saw a strong bent towards eco-friendly, sustainable tourism that connectd travellers to their natural surroundings in a responsible manner. One&Only Resorts are joining the bandwagon with a new range of nature-friendly properties. The One&Only Nature Resorts will focus on sustainable yet luxurious stays that offer guests immersive local experiences and eco-friendly itineraries. The first two properties from the collection will both be located in Rwanada – the One&Only Nyungwe House and One&Only Gorilla’s Nest resorts. Both resorts will feature luxury villas and suites with African design elements and stunning locations - One&Only Gorilla’s Nest will overlook the Virunga Volcano Range and a eucalyptus forest while Nyungwe House will be perched in the middle of a working tea plantation. In a bid to be sustainable the resorts’ F&B outlets will source seasonal, organic ingredients from local farms and producers and aim to achieve carbon-neutral certification by CarbonZero. One&Only Nyungwe House is set to open in 2017.

Lots of Shangri-La hotels

The Shangri-La Al Husn Resort & Spa in Oman will be relaunched as a standalone resort in October after a refurb. The 180-room resort in Muscat was earlier a part of the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa that also includes the family-friendly Al Waha and Al Bandar hotels. Here’s why you should be excited about the renovation – the hotel will get new F&B options that include a beach grill and a private Dine By Design experiences. A pool café featuring a locally sourced organic menu is also in the works. The upgrades extend to the wellness facilities too and will include the installation of a luxury branded boutique spa and a dedicated fitness centre. Additionally, the resort’s private 100-metre beach will offer more seclusion and seating options like daybeds, cabanas and private lounges. Amidst all the changes, the hotel’s no kids policy will remain, welcoming only guests over the age of 16.

If you’ve left Asia’s tourism potential unexplored, new Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts that were announced at ATM might tempt you to tap into destinations like Sri Lanka, Maldives and Singapore. The new Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo – said to be the most luxurious hotel to launch in Colombo in 35 years – is giving guests special deals at the Villingili Resort and Spa, Maldives. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Nestled between the Galle Face Green promenade and Beira Lake, the Shangri-La Colombo will have panoramic views of the Indian Ocean and its 466-room hotel will be part of a mixed-use development including an office tower, two residential towers and a shopping mall. Meanwhile, the group’s Kerry Hotels will launch on April 28 in Hong Kong (it’s their more budget-friendly brand), and three top-range properties open in China this year – Yiwu is scheduled to open in mid-May; Xiamen and Jinan will launch later in the year.

New Rotana hotels

Rotana has plans to open 17 new properties before the end of 2018, and some of their exciting launches will be here in the UAE – the Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas in Abu Dhabi is set to open at the end of 2017 with 354 upscale rooms and suites, in addition to 13 private beach villas. Earlier in the year, the 280-keys Al Bandar Arjaan by Rotana will open in Dubai, while Ras Al Khaimah’s The Cove Rotana Resort will receive a largescale facelift with the new and improved version is set to open doors in mid-2017.

New flights, new routes

You can now get to Australia via Sri Lanka. The country’s Sri Lankan Airlines revealed plans to boost flight frequencies on the Dubai-Colombo route at ATM (operational by winter) and introduced new destinations– services to Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Visakhapatnam in India; Melbourne, Australia and Guangzhou, China. The carrier plans to start four weekly flights between Colombo and Melbourne in late 2017 and a daily flight to the Indian cities and Guangzhou starting July.

Qatar Airways had news to share too at ATM – the airline will have five daily flights from Doha to Bangkok starting June. The increased frequency, along with its double-daily Phuket flights and the five-month-old Krabi operations (four flights a week), take the number of weekly Qatar Airways departures from Thailand to Doha to 53.

The Time (hotel) for women has come

A hotel run mostly by women for women will launch in Barsha at the end of 2017 – the four-star Time Asma Hotel will have 80 per cent female staff and will reserve two floors of its six for women, making it the second property to launch here this year that is targeting women travellers who want more privacy; Dukes Dubai was the first, with their Duchess Floor (Emirates Towers has had the concept in place for several years). The property will feature 232 rooms over six floors, a gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, four meeting rooms, a business centre and two restaurants, for both male and female guests. While the hotel will cater to both genders, it will have dedicated services for women such as a female-only check-in counter, dedicated women-only guest relations, in-house baby-sitting services, bespoke beauty products, in-room beauty treatments and female-only parking spaces.

Hatta is hot

Hatta is turning out to be the UAE’s next big ecological tourism project with Dh1.3 billion development plan for the area launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in November 2016. Head there for a weekend before touristic crowds swarm all over the hilly destination’s pristine wadis, lush mountains and isolation from the cacophony of city. New attractions include Akar’s Wadi-themed park, new 9km and 3km biking routes passing through Hatta Heritage Village, three dams, a park, and family recreation and children’s playing areas, and the new and improved JA Hatta Fort Hotel, which has undergone a revamp and is tapping into Hatta’s spurt of adventure tourism. The hotel has partnered with local businesses such as Adventure HQ and Hatta Kayak so guests can kayak on the Hatta Dam and biking through the mountains.

Japan is halal-friendly

If you’re planning an Eid getaway, add Japan to the list – the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) made its first appearance at ATM, revealing how more hotels and restaurants in the land of the rising sun are halal-friendly and cater to cultural needs of Muslim tourists. For in-depth information the JNTO has a special website –