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How Dubai can establish sustainable tourism practices

How Dubai can establish sustainable tourism practices

Public-private partnerships are needed for a greener tourism offering

Global warming and climate change are among the key challenges facing the world today and there is an urgent need for each nation to reduce its catastrophic impact on the environment and sustain natural resources for generations to come.

Dubai has answered that call and is embracing a sustainability model to cater to the need for a greener, more environmentally friendly future.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai said: “We recognise that preserving our energy resources will be one of the greatest challenges in our drive towards sustainable development. This, however, will not materialise unless the different facets of our society adopt energy conservation principles in their core values. The future generations will be the chief beneficiary of our achievements and the best judge of what we accomplish in this field.

Dubai is a city that is growing at an exponential rate, with each industry’s contribution intertwining to result in nationwide development and economic growth. The emirate is also recognised the world over for being one of the leading tourism destinations. After welcoming 14.9 million visitors in 2016, and by setting an ambitious target of welcoming 20 million in 2020, tourism has undoubtedly become one of the key pillars driving Dubai’s economy.

Much like the city, Dubai’s hospitality industry is experiencing steady progress, and the growing influence of the city’s tourism and leisure sectors are major contributors to the industry’s evolution and success. Consequently, it is no surprise that both tourism and hospitality play critical roles in achieving our sustainability goals.

The growth of these sectors, translates into a crucial responsibility that each of its stakeholders have – to ensure we create a more sustainable environment for residents and visitors alike. Furthermore, as travellers and residents become more conscious about the environment and steer towards brands that are meeting their ‘green’ expectations, hospitality establishments now have to cater to this environmentally aware segment of visitors.

Dubai has specifically implemented key strategies to ensure that its vision of sustainable development and the creation of a green economy is brought to life. The Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 aims to provide 75 per cent of energy from clean sources by 2050. And through the city’s Carbon Abatement Strategy 2021, Dubai aims to reduce carbon emissions by 16 per cent by the year 2021, striving to become the city with the lowest carbon footprint in the world.

Globally, environment waste numbers are also increasing each year. This speaks volumes about the immense pressure that natural resources and the environment are under. One of the 2017 Sustainable Development Goals, stipulated as part of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. According to the UN, an estimated one third of all food produced – equivalent to 1.3 billion tonnes worth around $1 trillion – is wasted each year.

Historically, hospitality players have been blamed as contributors to environmental waste, especially food wastage. Keeping this in mind, Dubai is moving to tackle the issue of food waste with the launch of the UAE Food Bank. The initiative, spearheaded by HH Sheikh Mohammed, was announced in January and aims to combat the Dhs3.5bn ($952.8m) worth of food discarded in the city every year by either distributing to the needy or recycling in an environmentally friendly manner.

Carbon emissions and food wastage remain some of the biggest barriers to managing sustainable tourism. This is why Dubai Tourism has developed a long-term sustainable tourism strategy, which acts as a roadmap to ensure that the city continuously remains at the forefront in terms of sustainable tourism. The mandate is to enhance the sustainability of the tourism sector and therefore positively impact interconnected industries within the city, while contributing towards achieving overall sustainable development targets by the year 2021.

Ultimately, part of the responsibility also lies with tourism boards and governing authorities to create the right framework to ensure that steps are taken to substantially reduce wastage.

Given this, the sustainable tourism strategy includes the development and rollout of tools that tourism and hospitality stakeholders can use to measure the impact and effectiveness of sustainable tourism initiatives. These include four interlinked pillars: awareness and education, performance measurement, industry awards, and industry standards.

But while Dubai Sustainable Tourism continues to lay the groundwork to create a sustainable future, it is equally imperative for stakeholders to keep the conversation alive and continue to educate the public. Therefore, an important aspect of ensuring that the sustainable tourism strategy works is public-private partnerships.

As the travel and tourism sector continues to be a key pillar of economic growth in the UAE, it is imperative for the industry to come together to identify common challenges and roll out initiatives that can effectively resolve any issues. Dubai will undeniably play an instrumental role in shaping the way forward for sustainable tourism, and if history is any indication, the city will work tirelessly to achieve the targets set, ensuring a cleaner, greener tomorrow is right around the corner.

Solaiman Al Rifai is senior project manager at Dubai Sustainable Tourism

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