Every year on September 27th, the United Nations observes World Tourism Day to acknowledge tourism’s significant role in promoting growth and cultural awareness. The theme for World Tourism Day 2023 is “Tourism and Green Investments,” emphasizing the importance of directing investments towards the well-being of people, the planet, and prosperity.
. These investments prioritize companies that prioritize environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices, reflecting a growing focus on ethical and responsible business practices.
As the hospitality industry adapts to changing customer preferences, now is a great time to invest in environmentally friendly options. The post-pandemic world has led to a heightened awareness of the importance of sustainability, and travelers are actively seeking more eco-conscious choices. According to a survey by Booking.com in 2023, which included over 33,000 respondents from 32 countries, 76% of travelers expressed a desire to travel more sustainably. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (65%) preferred staying at a hotel that has a sustainable certification or label. This presents a valuable opportunity for the hospitality industry to invest in green initiatives and contribute to the growth of the tourism sector.
To meet the changing expectations of customers and gain long-term benefits, hotels prioritizing sustainability are becoming increasingly important. The Middle East hospitality industry can take advantage of this opportunity by implementing green investments. The WTTC Hotel Sustainability Basics framework, developed by the industry for the industry, provides a coordinated set of sustainability indicators that all hotels should implement as a minimum. These 12 actions are fundamental to achieving hotel sustainability.
Similarly, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism has announced the launch of the ‘Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp,’ a new sustainability initiative that recognizes hotels with the highest adherence to 19 ‘Sustainability Requirements.’ The initiative, launched in line with the UAE Year of Sustainability, is part of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism’s commitment to strengthening Dubai’s position as a leading sustainable tourism destination.
Another way to engage in green investments is to strengthen sustainable consumption and production. By incorporating sustainability requirements into their purchasing processes, hoteliers can convey a strong signal to drive markets towards more sustainability and help scale the need for more sustainable goods and services.
The hospitality industry needs to prioritize efforts in reducing carbon emissions and investing in sustainable and eco-friendly practices. The industry’s significant carbon emissions mainly come from on-site energy use, particularly after construction. To ensure sustainable operations and achieve net-zero emissions, smarter energy-saving solutions like digital building automation systems should be invested in. These systems can efficiently manage power distribution, enhance reliability, and improve operational performance.
An encouraging step in this direction is the recent announcement by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) regarding the relaunch of their Carbon Calculator tool. This tool has been revamped to provide real-time data on carbon emissions sources within Dubai’s hospitality sector. It enables hotels to pinpoint and effectively manage their energy consumption, promoting sustainability.
Even before the pandemic, there was a noticeable trend towards green investments. This trend has now gained more momentum due to the heightened sense of urgency and awareness among governments to act. Investing in emission reduction presents a significant opportunity, especially in green building solutions for hotels, resorts, and restaurants.
Investing in innovative solutions and technologies to reduce carbon emissions in the tourism industry and developing infrastructure that can withstand climate change can bring promising investment opportunities. With a potential $4 trillion gap in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must take advantage of these options to make the tourism sector more sustainable and contribute to achieving the SDGs in developing countries. Let’s work together to create a better future for everyone.
The world is in the midst of rapid change. As an industry we have a collective responsibility to collaborate to take action. Being part of organisations like the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the industry can come together and make great progress to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive world for all. Travel is about creating lasting memories and connecting people. And it is by being united and connected as an industry that we can move towards a net positive impact and make all the difference.
Commentary by Dimitris Manikis, President EMEA, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts