The World Green Tourism conference opened in Abu Dhabi earlier with a declaration that a new kind of sustainable tourism can help protect the cultural heritage of the United Arab Emirates.
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary general of the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD), told an audience of travel trade professionals the tourism sector has a crucial role to play in reducing footprint carbon footprints and combating climate change.
She said: “Abu Dhabi has a fantastic natural heritage with a real mix of geology, habitats and species, on land and in the sea. Several million birds each year pass through Abu Dhabi on their migration from the heart of Asia southwards to Africa, or eastwards to India or beyond.
“In addition to the biodiversity value, the natural environment of the UAE is closely associated with the cultural heritage of the Emirati people.
“Given these natural assets and their importance to the cultural identity of the UAE, there is a world of opportunity for a new kind of tourism in Abu Dhabi that not only raises awareness on the unique biodiversity of the Emirate, but can also play a role in celebrating and safeguarding the cultural heritage of its people.
She added: “It is vitally important that as Abu Dhabi seeks to diversify its economy and to encourage the tourism sector to grow and contribute more to the economy, that we do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
“Creating jobs and building capacity amongst locals to manage our natural assets so that we can see not just a growth in tourism but in sustainable eco-tourism is equally important.”
Maurice Strong addressed the audience in Abu Dhabi
The opening of the conference then saw the presentation of the inaugural World Green Tourism Award to Maurice Strong, senior advisor to the 2012 Rio+20 Summit, in recognition of his pivotal role in shaping the global sustainable development agenda.
Sponsored by Etihad Airways, in partnership with the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP), the award acknowledges Strong’s outstanding efforts to encourage thought leadership and action for green initiatives in travel and tourism.
Organised by Streamline Marketing Group, the first commercial conference and exhibition specifically for the sustainable tourism sector is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority – recognised as the World’s Leading Tourist Board by the World Travel Awards - and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.
The opening day of the conference programme was devoted to practical steps for the travel and tourism industry to “green” their operations and make their businesses more sustainable.
Moderated by professor Geoffrey Lipman, a world authority on green tourism, the first of a series of panel debates dealt with the question of how can large scale tourism ever be made sustainable, and whether the industry’s large players are doing enough.
Breaking Travel News recently caught up with Lipman to get the latest in green developments in the tourism industry.