It is becoming increasingly evident in the Middle East that our approach to tourism must be adjusted to take environmental and social concerns into account. There are numerous approaches: there is the Egyptian way, which is to encourage as many tourists as can squeeze between the country’s monuments, to the detriment of various local communities, there is Jordan’s new combination of tourism and conservation, or Lebanon’s carbon-free city tours. To discuss the sustainability of its tourism industry, Abu Dhabi is hosting the three day World Green Tourism conference commencing 22 November, 2010.
According to Maey el Shoush with The National, 3,000 concerned government officials, industry leaders, and leading academics will attend the function in order to consider the future of tourism.
And there is good reason. Citing the World Tourism Organization, el Shoush writes that 60% of the world’s ecosystems are threatened by tourism traffic. This has caused local officials to pause and reevaluate, as well as to instill rigorous environmental protection measures.
Mr. Oisin Commane, the Group Director of the Streamline Marketing Group:
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority [ADTA] is taking this initiative very seriously and setting strict environmental rules in the sector… Sustainability is not about the environment alone, it encompasses other important factors.”
Those other factors include the socio-economic health of the communities being impacted by tourism traffic, including whether jobs are being created.
In an effort to increase transparency, the Global Reporting Initiative gave Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry a B-grade, meaning that it is one step below full disclosure.
“This report acts as a baseline from which our annual performance will be measured and presented,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of ADTA.
As such, Abu Dhabi will add several new programs aimed at improving their sustainability: green hotels, risk management assessments, and a Health, Safety and Environmental department, according to el Shoush.
All of these initiatives are said to take into consideration the tourist’s growing interest in ecologically-conscious travel.
:: The National
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