According to Sustainable Travel International, tourism-related activities account for approximately 8 percent of worldwide carbon emissions. Danielle Curtis, exhibition director ME of Arabian Travel Market, highlights five sustainable trends that have already gained significant momentum in the Middle East and look set to play a critical role in the industry’s ongoing journey to decarbonize.
Aviation companies are investing in cutting-edge innovations to help minimize the impact of air travel on the environment, and Middle East-based airlines are playing a leading role in this transition. Etihad Airways, for example, recently received the Environmental Sustainability Innovation of the Year award from the Centre of Aviation (CAPA) for its progress toward net-zero targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Elsewhere in the region, Qatar Airways is making significant progress toward lowering its carbon emissions through similar initiatives, such as waste reduction and water conservation. The airline has also made an array of aerodynamic improvements to its fleet and is working to drive sustainability through quieter, more efficient engines.
Eco hotels and resorts
As airlines strive to improve the sustainable performance of their aircraft, hotels and resorts are also working diligently to minimize their environmental impact. Earlier this month, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) announced that it had partnered with Hotelbeds to help increase inbound travel while promoting green hospitality offerings across the emirate.
On a broader level, the Middle East is already home to a diverse selection of eco-conscious hotels and resorts, many of which have eliminated single-use plastics, integrated energy-efficient lighting and utilities, and incorporated renewable and environmentally friendly materials as part of their development and upkeep. When coupled with renewable and low-carbon energy sources, such as solar power, these measures are enabling tourists across the region to enjoy premium guest experiences that don’t cost the earth.
Sustainable attractions and activities
The Middle East features a burgeoning array of attractions and activities that have been specifically designed with low environmental impact and, in some cases, even make a positive contribution to local ecosystems and communities. Sand Sherpa in Dubai, for instance, delivers eco-adventures ranging from sustainable camping to wildlife safaris in conservation areas.
Elsewhere in the UAE, Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, continues to offer guests an immersive journey through forest roots and ocean depths.
Locally sourced produce
The Middle East’s hospitality sector is making significant sustainability inroads through the roll-out of sustainable food and beverage (F&B) offerings. Since opening its doors in 2019, Dubai-based restaurant Lowe has focused on being sustainable. Meanwhile, Baron Beirut uses organic produce to create all its recipes, whereas Abu Dhabi’s Sanderson’s uses corn starch in the manufacture of its eco-friendly food tubs and cutlery.
All these trends and more are being incentivized and facilitated by a series of government-led sustainable tourism strategies, which are in effect across the Middle East. For example, the Dubai College of Tourism (DCT) and Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST) launched a new course earlier this month to enhance sustainable tourism offerings as the emirate prepares to host COP28 in November 2023. The Dubai Way program will empower participants to drive water and energy savings through effective green governance and procurement practices.
Elsewhere in the region, the Oman 2040 Tourism Strategy aims to improve sustainability within the sultanate’s luxury travel sector within the coming two decades. Saudi Arabia is also working to establish itself as a sustainable tourism destination through projects that combine world-class guest experiences and environmental conservation as it pushes ahead with its ambitious goal to increase inbound tourism by 10 million visitors annually as part of Vision 2030.