Dubai: A growing trend towards sustainability means the UAE tourism sector is going the extra mile to make sure its onward course is in tune with the environment.
"Tourism destinations are realising that in order to stay competitive, becoming green must be a principal element of their branding and marketing policies," said George Atta Allah, a partner at Booz & Company.
Where the environment is concerned, the numbers are not looking good for the tourism sector. The industry is currently responsible for around 5 per cent of global carbon emissions which mostly come from air travel and accommodation. A recent global study by the World Economic Forum and Booz & Company estimates that these emissions will double by 2035 if left unchecked.
In Dubai alone, the carbon footprint of the city's hotels is estimated to be over 500 million kg a year, equivalent to 60,000 round-trip flights between Dubai and London.
Along with unwanted carbon emissions, tourism also threatens to destroy 60 per cent of the world's ecosystems, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
While the UAE is not up there with top green destinations in Europe, it is on an aggressive development plan to catch up.
"The UAE is a relatively young country which has experienced rapid growth in all sectors including tourism which wasn't there four years ago. The market is demanding it and more and more consumers are consciously choosing destinations, hotels and airlines based on what those companies are doing towards caring for the environment. Recent surveys show that people are choosing to pay more for responsible tourism," Rick Theobald, event director at the World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi told Gulf News.
In line with this development plan, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) announced in 2008 the first initiative to reduce carbon emissions in the hospitality industry by 20 per cent by 2011.
Abu Dhabi as a tourist destination is also set on adopting an environment-conscious approach. The Abu Dhabi Tourist Agency (ADTA) has established its own Environmental Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS) — the only system of its kind to embrace an entire tourism segment.
"Under this, each hotel has to design its own EHSMS. ADTA has been holding courses for hotel engineers to assist them in doing this and in helping them meet our 2010 targets of 10 per cent reduction in energy, 20 per cent reduction in water usage and 20 per cent reduction in waste-to-landfill," said an ADTA spokesperson. The Green Tourism Awards in 2009 have also encouraged this inclination towards responsible tourism.
This year will see the inaugural event of World Green Tourism Abu Dhabi which will be the first dedicated responsible tourism event in the Middle East.
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