Sustainablity and responsible tourism

Nadege Noblet-Segers

The idea that tourism can be responsible seems at odds with the core idea of travel – after all, most travel to escape their responsibilities – but in the context of a sustainable industry, responsible tourism presents a strong business case.

As a concept, it still places resource reduction, renewable energy and recycling at its core, but the intended impacts aim further than the hotel grounds. Responsibility in tourism is about enhancing and increasing accessibility to the rich heritage of the surrounding region to bring opportunities for economic development to local communities, and help preserve their cultures.

It’s sustainability in 3D. Locally sourced food, community programmes, charitable work, animal welfare, employment opportunities and staff wellbeing, all play a part in the wider context. However, it doesn’t come with the eco-tourism label: it’s the standard.

When applied to hotel operations, it frames operating expendituer in terms of wider environmental expenditure and, just like reducing energy or water use, these wider aims offer their own sustainable outcomes and bottom line benefits.

For example, tourism is responsible for one in every 10 jobs globally, and 30 per cent of world trade in services. The presence of a thriving hospitality and tourism industry also drives the capacity to generate billions in foreign currency earnings.

The GCC has nurtured a world-class hospitality landscape, which now boasts one of the strongest growth rates in the world. The resulting career opportunities provide a partial solution for rising youth unemployment and the urgent need to diversify and strengthen the private sector.

Supply chains also come into play. Hospitality is supported by a vast import industry, which supplies the bulk of all FF&E (furniture, fixture & equipment) and hotels receive multiple vehicle deliveries on a daily basis. Responsible supply chain management could drastically reduce the residual impact of these processes.

That isn’t to say focus shouldn’t remain on resource consumption. The regional industry demands vast amounts of non-essential water and energy and generates CO2 emissions, food waste, noise and light pollution as a matter of course. In the UAE, energy costs burn 6 per cent of total hotel revenue.

The global benchmark for the carbon footprint of a typical hotel is 20,000 – 30,000 KGCO2E per room and just under 500KWH in energy usage per square metre. In Saudi Arabia, the carbon footprint of a typical hotel room is higher than 50,000 KGCO2E, with energy usage per square metre at 750KWH.

There is a clear call for business to take the lead.

Throughout ATM 2018, responsible tourism will be explored in all its forms. Providing a stage to those who have embraced the new standard, we will demonstrate what can be achieved when the industry’s responsibility towards people and planet, goes beyond operating expenditure.


* The writer is exhibition manager, Arabian Travel Market