Five sustainable trends to look out for in the Middle East’s travel sector

Published on November 22, 2022

Sustainable progress within the Middle East’s travel, tourism and hospitality space is advancing rapidly, as the industry looks ahead to Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023The sustainable trends of green airlines, eco hospitality, sustainable attractions, locally sourced produce and forward-thinking government initiatives will represent key focuses at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, which will take place at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) from 1-4 May next year.

In line with its theme of ‘Working Towards Net Zero’, the 30th edition of ATM will see public and private sector experts from around the world gather in the UAE to explore the decarbonised future of global travel.

The upcoming edition of the event will capitalise on the Middle East’s status as a world leader in green innovation, providing a forum in which travel, tourism and hospitality professionals can showcase sustainable advancements while sharing knowledge and examples of best practice from across the sector.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, said: “The 30th edition of ATM will not only drive home the importance of working towards net zero within the Middle East’s tourism sector, but also showcase the practical steps that are being taken across our industry to achieve regional and global sustainability goals.

“ATM has officially commenced its journey to net zero and its upcoming edition will shine a spotlight on challenges and opportunities connected with responsible tourism across our region and beyond,” Curtis added. “From aviation and attractions to resorts and dining, we look forward to exploring the role that the Middle East is playing – and will continue to play – in shaping a decarbonised global travel sector.”

According to Sustainable Travel International, tourism-related activities account for approximately 8% of worldwide carbon emissions. In preparation for ATM 2023, the event’s organisers have highlighted five sustainable trends that have already gained significant momentum in the Middle East, and which look set to play a central role in the industry’s ongoing journey to decarbonisation.

Greener airlines

Aviation companies the world over are investing in cutting-edge innovations to help minimise 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 towards net-zero targets and UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Not only does the Abu Dhabi-based airline expect to cut single-use plastic waste by 80% by the end of this year, but it is also on course to achieve a 20% reduction in passenger fleet emissions intensity by 2025.

Elsewhere in the region, Qatar Airways is making significant progress towards 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 minimise their environmental impact at ground level. 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 to result in a negligible 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, first developed for Expo 2020 Dubai and now located in Expo City Dubai, continues to wow guests with an immersive journey through forest roots and ocean depths. This engaging, playful and reflective experience is designed to take visitors of all ages on an emotional journey, allowing them to explore the impact that our choices have on the environment and how they can help preserve our planet for future generations.

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. Dubai-based restaurant Lowe, for instance, has focused on delivering delicious meals that have no detrimental impact on the planet since opening its doors in 2019. Beirut’s Baron, meanwhile, 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.

Top-down strategies

All these trends and more are being incentivised 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) – both of which form part of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) – launched a new course earlier this month to enhance sustainable tourism offerings as the emirate prepares to host COP28 in November 2023. Available on Dubai’s innovative learning platform, Dubai Way, this programme 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.

The collective commitment of regional leaders to the development of a sustainable travel industry will offer an ideal framework for the panels, workshops and conversations that take place during ATM 2023, as policymakers, industry leaders and tourism professionals from around the world come together to catalyse our journey to net zero.
ATM 2023 will provide a global platform for regional experts to explore their sector’s sustainable future ahead of COP28, which will take place in the Expo City Dubai in November of next year.

Each year, ATM highlights specific aspects of travel that will be pivotal in determining the direction the industry will take moving forward. The 2023 edition will explore how innovative sustainable travel trends are likely to evolve, allowing participants to identify growth strategies within key vertical sectors.

ATM 2023 will also feature a sustainability category at its annual exhibitor awards for the first time. Exhibiting organisations will be recognised based on the extent to which they have considered the environmental impact of their stands, as well as their efforts to reduce or offset their carbon footprints.

The ATM 2023 conference programme is being specifically developed to address sustainability issues across the travel and tourism industry, with commentary from leadership figures representing a variety of market segments such as destinations, travel technology, airlines, cruises, hospitality, car rentals and hotels.

ATM 2022 attracted more than 24,000 visitors and hosted over 31,000 participants, including 1,600 exhibitors and attendees from 151 countries, across 10 halls at DWTC.

Source: Press release

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