Globally, we are moving towards a greener economy. Governments and businesses are not only declaring a commitment to sustainable models of operation, but are actively implementing national-level strategies to coordinate this transition.
Embracing nature’s value in the Middle East
The Middle East has the potential to be a leader in this transition. To date, the Middle East economy has relied predominantly on oil exportation, but the region’s future could potentially be one of renewable energy exports and sustainable industries. The region is geographically favorable for renewable energy and in particular, solar energy, and such technologies are already being incorporated into new projects such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and the Sustainable City project in Dubai. These are examples of architecture embracing, incorporating and learning from nature.
Sustainable tourism builds stronger economies
The multiplying economic effect of tourism is widely recognized; in many countries the indirect impact of tourism on factors such as employment and economic development significantly adds to the immediate spending power of the tourist. Already now, 8.9% of global employment (or 235 million jobs) and more than 9% of global GDP is a result of the tourism sector. This figure is expected to grow at a rate that is likely to exceed many other industries, making tourism one of the most valuable sources of employment generation worldwide.
Tourists value their holidays when their presence is positive
This future image of the Middle East can be of particular value to tourism, a sector, much like others, that is sensitive to reputation and responsive to consumer demand. With tourists evaluating all parts of the industry for sustainability – from the airline they fly with to the hotel they stay in – it is raising the bar for all suppliers and services involved. An increasing focus on tourism also helps with the regions’ efforts to diversify the economy.
In light of environmental degradation and in particular, water scarcity, it is crucial that the tourism industry goes some way to monitoring its use of environmental resources – not least because sustainability is a ‘pull factor’ for many tourists coming to the region. Green tourism – or eco-tourism – has received bad press in the past, but when done carefully, sustainably managed tourism can be an effective way to preserve regional assets, whether they be natural or cultural. The Government of Dubai promotes sustainability, with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) launching the Dubai Green Tourism Award Program in 2009. The Awards recognize and honor hotel establishments that practice energy and water conservation, the reduction of waste and protect the environment, and strives to serve as a model for responsible green tourism practices.
Tourism must be sensitive to the local culture and environment to ensure longevity, and the Middle East is demonstrating a proactive and committed effort towards achieving this.