The climate crisis was under the spotlight during the opening session of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The discussion gathered tourism and economy figureheads from across the Middle East region to address how the travel industry needs to adapt to tackle the issue of climate change and meet current regulations by implementing new sustainable policies, funds and support.
Taking place on the Global Stage at ATM, the discussion was moderated by Eleni Giokos, Anchor and Correspondent CNN, and the prestigious line-up of speakers included Sujit Mohanty, Regional Division for the Arab States, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR); Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, Managing Director, Jordan Tourism Board; and H.E. Walid Nassar, Minister of Tourism, Lebanon.
According to Sustainable Travel International, tourism is responsible for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions from transport, food and beverage, accommodation and related goods and services. The opening session at ATM looked at the industry’s crucial role in climate change – a particularly pertinent topic as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year.
The UNDRR works closely with governments, the private sector and stakeholders across the globe, including 22 Arab nations, to reduce disaster risk. Building a picture of the current situation, Mohanty said, “Globally, in the last 20 years, there have been $2.97 trillion in economic losses due to disasters. Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe climate-related hazards such as floods, heatwaves, cyclones and hurricanes. In turn, the tourism industry loses enormous amounts of money due to these hazards. Therefore the return on investment is clear – invest now to help protect the future.”
Jordan is one of the highest-ranking countries in the region on The Euromonitor Environmental Sustainability Index and responsible tourism is now a key focus for the nation. “Educating both businesses and travellers on how they contribute to the carbon footprint is one of our key priorities. In parallel with education, we are offering incentives to hotels, businesses and other stakeholders to encourage sustainable practices, ” said Dr Arabiyat.
Despite political and economic challenges, Lebanon has attracted a significant number of tourists since 2022. In the summer of last year, Lebanon welcomed two million tourists, a quarter of which were international. As a result of the growth in visitor numbers, rural tourism has seen a boost, an area of tourism which is more sustainable and, therefore, more favourable to the issue of climate change.
Speaking on the growth of rural tourism, H.E. Nassar said, “The guesthouse sector has grown in the last two to three years in Lebanon, which has been a welcome trend. We have now established a syndicate of over 150 guesthouses, encouraging tourism in more remote areas.”
Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME for Arabian Travel Market, said: “The issue of climate change has never been more topical or urgent, and the strategies discussed at today’s opening session provided the perfect launchpad for ATM 2023 as we explore the future of sustainable travel under the theme: “Working towards net zero.”
Curtis added: “Over the next three days, we will be hearing from leading voices across diverse segments of the global travel and tourism sector, all aligned on a shared vision to improve the climate change situation and ensure environmental protection.”
Elsewhere on the agenda:
Day one of ATM 2023 featured 20 sessions across the Global Stage, Travel Tech Stage and Sustainability Hub. Other highlights from the day included the Technology: The Enabler of Sustainable Travel session, the funding of sustainability and Enhancing the Customer Experience Through AI. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance also touched on the importance of protecting the locations, livelihoods and communities in which hotels are based, in the Achieving Net Positive Hospitality session..
Looking ahead to day two, John Strickland will host Emirates Returns to Growth in conversation with Sir Timothy Clark, KBE President, Emirates Airline. This discussion will reference topics such as growth in passenger traffic as well as the challenges and opportunities for the airline moving forward.
Over on the Travel Tech stage, day two starts with a digital consumer focus featuring speakers from Euromonitor, TikTok and Amadeus. Green technology is the subject of a discussion between a panel of experts at the Sustainability Hub who will share their views on how technology can help to reduce carbon emissions, water consumption and deal with waste.
ATM 2023 is held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner. The show forms an integral part of Arabian Travel Week, a 10-day-long festival of travel and tourism events.