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Calls for sustainable tourism are rising and what the UAE is doing about it

Hotels and destinations will have to balance short-term calls for financial recovery coming out of the pandemic, with a mid to longer-term eco-friendly business strategy

The MENA region is in the process of establishing itself as a key destination for EWAA tourists The per capita water use in the UAE is already three times higher than the global average Dubai announced a year-long initiative to raise awareness of sustainable and environmentally-friendly attractions

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director for the Middle East at the recently held Arabian Travel Market event, remarked: “Sustainability in travel and tourism is vitally important for the future of our industry, with growing concerns about the industry’s impact on the environment.   Hotels and destinations will have to balance short-term calls for  financial recovery coming out of the pandemic, with a mid to longer-term eco-friendly business strategy.” 

Eric Ricaurte, Founder and Chief Executive of hospitality consultancy Greenview, said: “By 2030 at the latest, hotels will be expected by their stakeholders to be net-zero (emissions), 100% renewable energy. So, the problem at the moment is really coping with the pace of change to get there.” 

According to Ricaurte, the key to keeping pace with retrofits or renovations, will, in part be dictated not only by consumer demand but by potential new green regulations. 

“Hotels will need to plan ahead for new regulations, allocating enough reserves through their CAPEX budgets.”

Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications at Radisson Hotel Group commented: “All major hospitality companies have been tracking their (sustainable) performance and we’ve all been setting reduction targets. I do believe that we need to build a framework, with agreed set sustainability criteria and that we should share that information transparently.”  

The ecotourism industry is expected to achieve 8% annual growth in the medium to long term.

James Wrenn, Associate Director, Colliers Hotels MENA, looked at alternative lodging, under the heading of, ‘From luxury cabins to eco tents’ – one of the fastest-growing touristic offerings.

According to Colliers, the evolution of the Eco, Wellness, Agri, and Adventure (EWAA) tourism industry can be attributed to the increased demand for sustainable lodging options, the change in people’s lifestyle, and the increased awareness of the impact of tourism on the environment. 

Simultaneously, the MENA region is in the process of establishing itself as a key destination for EWAA tourists with numerous developments underway. While initial EWAA projects were centered around individual luxury desert resorts particularly in the UAE, we now see the UAE, KSA, and Oman leading the development in this market with several projects and government masterplans.

Read: A fully sustainable eco-floating hotel in Qatar expected to open in 2025

Read: Billionaires and their eco-tourism attempts at saving the earth’s climate

Hotels and water usage 

Dake Rechsand, a Dubai-based company offering sustainable solutions in water conservation and desert farming, has showcased water-use solutions that could help shape the future of UAE’s hospitality industry, as the due date for compliance with Dubai Tourism’s Sustainability Board guidelines approaches.  

“The per capita water use in the UAE is already three times higher than the global average,” said Chandra Dake, CEO and Founder of Dake Rechsand. “The hospitality industry accounts for disproportionately high water usage, from laundry to landscaping. Additionally, since much of the UAE’s water supply is produced through desalination, it has embodied carbon at every stage, from procurement, to transportation, to end-use,” he added.

According to Dake Rechsand, by taking the 3Rs approach ‘Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse’, hotels in the Middle East can take a smart and proactive approach to sustainability, while enhancing the property, and the guest experience they offer. 

It said a water-wise hospitality property can:

  • Reduce: Hotels can reduce water usage by using innovative techniques and products which help plants thrive despite less volume or lower frequency of irrigation.
  • Recycle: Solutions that recycle water that has been used to wash paving and other surfaces in the property can make a hotel dramatically more efficient in water use, without altering the guest experience.
  • Reuse: The reclaimed water can be used for landscaping and watering plants after it has been filtered.

Greywater reuse is an increasingly popular strategy, being adopted by hospitality and residential properties around the world. Several approaches, including using physical and chemical filtration, and/or constructed wetland areas, are being implemented to make bath and laundry water suitable for reuse and keeping the property’s landscaping lush and green.

Dake Rechsand’s “breathable sand” technology offers a simple, decentralized, water harvesting and storage solution, which also empowers water-wise landscaping.  

Dake Rechsand says that a one-time application of its breathable sand in landscaping enables optimal growth of plants, with nearly 80% less water use.  

Hotels can also build underground reservoirs, and transform all rain-exposed surfaces into a catchment area for water. Using simple underground water networks, this decentralized water storage system can then be redirected and utilized for all hotel purposes, including landscaping.

Dubai’s year-long sustainability schedule

Dubai authorities have announced a year-long initiative that will raise awareness of the emirate’s top sustainable and environmentally-friendly attractions.

Launched by Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST), the initiative brings a range of eco-conscious activities to the forefront, allowing travelers to discover much of Dubai’s lesser-known natural beauty. 

June 3: World Bike Day: On this day, residents will be called to go cycling across some of Dubai’s leading tracks, including Al Qudra Cycle Track, Nad Al Sheba Park, and Hatta Mountain Biking. 

July 3: Plastic Free Bag Day: A nationwide challenge, establishments, and residents will be asked to do their part in committing more to the removal of single-use plastics for good.

September 18: International Coastal Clean-Up Day: Clean-up initiatives are one of the most common CSR commitments carried out by hotels. On this day, the country will run the Clean Up UAE campaign to help preserve Dubai’s beaches and waterways. 

October 4: World Animal Day: On this day, a range of Dubai’s nature reserves will come together to celebrate the emirate’s natural wildlife. 

December 11: International Mountain Day: International Mountain Day will celebrate the beauty of the Hajar and Hatta areas.