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UAE travel industry adopts green branding to boost expansion

Sector currently responsible for 5% of global carbon emissions

Image Credit: Gulf News Archive
Tourists enjoy a 'fly to the lure' demonstration at the Al Maha Desert Resort, ranked by National Geographic among the world’s best ecotourism models. Green branding is increasingly becoming important for the success of destinations.
01 Gulf News

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.

Unwanted emissions

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.

Do you think this is a good initiative? Would you pay more to stay at a green hotel? How else can hotels reduce their carbon footprint? Tell us at readers@gulfnews.com or fill in the form below to comment.

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Nobody can argue with this initiative but it will be a tough sell, especially to the hospitality industry. Furthermore, although the establishment of the EHSMS is a good move, it is unclear if the model is being used across the whole sector or just the hospitality sector. In my opinion, goals are more likely to be achieved if it is spread out across the whole industry at the same time to ensure maximum impact.Although it may be a little late, policies should also be initiated to ensure all future hotels have to use state of the art renewable energy tools that are perhaps subsidised by the government.

Marcus Osborne

22 September 2010 09:48jump to comments
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