The tourism industry has always been vital to the UAE’s economy, forming the fundamental backbone of the country. The country’s reputation as a glamorous hub for travellers is upheld by its reliable aviation and hospitality giants. It sure doesn’t hurt that tourists of all tax brackets will be able to find something to enjoy here: from luxurious to cheap hotels in Dubai and across all emirates, from Michelin-starred restaurants to affordable street food.
Yet, no matter how booming tourism is in the UAE, it’s still dogged by the same concern facing major industry players worldwide. While it accounts for over 10 per cent of global GDP, the tourism sector is also single-handedly responsible for around 8 per cent of carbon emissions worldwide. Like every other industry, the ever-growing demand for more development and advancement in tourism is often at nature's expense, greatly impacting the environment. That's where sustainable tourism comes into play.
Recently, there has been a growing need for increased sustainability within the tourism industry that carefully considers its current and future impacts while balancing the needs of tourists and the environment.
The UAE government is mindful of this need to preserve and protect their natural resources while using them for touristic purposes. Over the years, they have regularly introduced new initiatives and incentives to promote nature consciousness in the hospitality industry. One such project is Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST), a public-private initiative to incorporate green energy and other facets of sustainability into all aspects of the tourism sector.
The initiative is part of Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to enhance the country's position as one of the world's leading sustainable tourism destinations. DST does this by collaborating with public and private sectors to strengthen UAE's commitment towards sustainable tourism.
The international exhibition Expo 2020 Dubai conducted by the UAE is yet another example of the country's commitment towards creating an environmentally conscious way to attract tourists and visitors while being resourceful. The mega event is the proud recipient of the Event Sustainability Management System certification for its adherence towards going green.
Expo 2020 reduced water consumption to up to 52.4% in their buildings and pavillions while creating upto 5.5 megawatts of renewable energy produced within the premises. Over 95% of the green landscape is free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, while 50% of the total plant species were locally resourced native ones.
Several names in the UAE travel industry have also been working towards incorporating more stability and balance by introducing more greener ways to travel.
Going green on air and land
As part of Emirates Airline’s commitment to sustainability and reducing emissions by conscious consumption, the airline has constantly been working towards adopting more environmentally friendly choices in the skies and on the ground.
From Emirates Economy amenity packages to blankets and kids' goodies, many items onboard are made from recycled plastic bottles. Plastic straws and stirrers are replaced with greener alternatives sourced from wood and paper, in addition to the wide range of vegan options they offer. On the ground, Emirates is also heavily investing in solar-powered sources of energy in Dubai.
Luxury hotels taking nature-friendly turns
Not just airlines, hotels across the UAE are also stepping up their sustainability drive.
For instance, Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, has introduced vertical gardens in their outlets to bring awareness to regenerative farming practices. Meanwhile, Al Maha luxury resorts are incorporating local flora and fauna species in their premises to promote biodiversity.
Desert Safari, but with a green twist
Another example of sustainability through tourism is Platinum Heritage Dubai, the only eco-tourism desert safari company in Dubai. The tour services offered by Platinum Heritage Dubai take a different approach to desert tourism by ditching the usual dune bashing, which has been proven detrimental to land by accelerating desertification. Instead, they offer wildlife and nature drives, and highlight local culture and businesses.
Of course, there's plenty more that the public and private authorities can—and should—do in this sphere. Still, the country seems poised to continue marching towards establishing a more efficient and long-lasting connection between tourism and the environment, all while maintaining a healthy balance between the two. We can all breathe a little easier with that knowledge in mind.