International Tourism is a very essential component of revenue for the United Arab Emirates. Tourism constitutes a disproportionate 11.6 per cent of GDP in UAE and the country has set an ambitious target of 15 per cent GDP from tourism alone. An important element of UAE’s future tourism policy is sustainable tourism. The Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST) initiative can make a huge difference in UAE’s ability to sustain its green environment and climate promises.

The DST Initiative aims to “enhance the sustainability of the tourism sector and for contributing to the broader clean energy and sustainable development targets” in Dubai. DST has set out a clear implementation roadmap with a full-fledged programme with a variety of practical sustainability initiatives which ensure efficient management of resources to cut carbon footprint of the hospitality industry.

As per the experience of cutting-edge hospitality businesses worldwide, the low hanging fruits that can be shortly achieved with the green approach include reducing energy/water consumption costs by 20%, cut solid waste and wastewater disposal by 15%, improve tourism ecosystem, etc. To achieve this, the DST has planned its programmes around three pillars of sustainability namely Environmental, economic and social pillars. The environmental approach includes renewable energy, reducing fossil fuel consumption and emissions, sustainable agriculture and fishing, organic farming, tree planting and reducing deforestation, recycling, and improved waste management. The economic approach ensures fair distribution and efficient allocation of our resources. This pillar supports initiatives like responsible supply chain practices, inclusive development and fair trade. Finally, the social approach resolves towards the ethical responsibility to do something about human inequality, social injustice, and poverty supporting initiatives like diversity, empowerment and poverty reduction that promote social equity.

Sustainability has become a viable concept because as per a survey, 64% of the guests in Dubai were ready to pay more for eco-certified hotels, products and services. According to a survey, global tourists consider Dubai as an eco-friendly tourism hub although tourists from China and West will like to spend in better sustainable facilities too. So the need for sustainable tourism is important for UAE as it impacts the visiting choices of the tourists strongly.

To achieve better success, UAE is investing in adopting the green practices, eco-friendly activities and most importantly engaging with the tourists to let them know about the green practices for better informed choices. This also promotes responsible activities by the tourists that help the green ecosystem in the country. From browsing to Arrival and further till departure, Dubai will benefit from sustainable tourism at each step.

Although prophesized and adapted in some forms, there remains many technical and organizational challenges to implement many green practices. Promoting climate-friendly behaviour to an unaware public is easier said than done. UAE will need to stay committed to years of progressive implementation that will be costly in the beginning phases. Supply chain management for green products, newly launched technologies will also pose an issue for Dubai. Budget friendly tourism services will need support to implement the green choices and same goes for the tourists who may be hesitant in paying more.
However, the future never stops for any one. Tourism in the future is likely to become more informative as 5G starts getting rolled out across the world. Tourists will research the finer imprints of their itinerary in much more detail than only gazing the tall towers of the Burj Khalifa.

So, Dubai’s choice to shift to sustainable tourism will offset the destabilizing effects of pollution from the massive tourism influx. Sustainable tourism also means more manpower, more jobs and more demand in the overall ecosystem. Thus, UAE is locking on a sustainable green future through its green tourism choice.

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