Sus­tain­able tourism: Ev­ery­one can drive change

The de­vel­op­ment of sus­tain­able tourism plans and schemes is fast be­com­ing an in­te­gral part of gov­ern­ment strate­gies for meet­ing longterm ob­jec­tives, es­pe­cially in emerg­ing coun­tries with volatile mar­kets. Hos­pi­tal­ity News ME spoke to Taleb Ri­fai, United

Hospitality News Middle East - - CONTENTS -

1. How ef­fec­tively do you think in­volved states will be im­ple­ment­ing sus­tain­able tourism pro­ce­dures?

There are dif­fer­ent man­ners and strate­gies to de­velop sus­tain­able tourism prac­tices. Leg­is­la­tion may ap­pear as the ma­jor one, but the in­volve­ment of key stake­hold­ers, such as pri­vate sec­tor firms, is an im­por­tant re­quire­ment. In par­al­lel, cus­tomers’ and trav­el­ers’ needs must also be ad­dressed and con­sid­ered.

2. What prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions is UNWTO of­fer­ing?

Sus­tain­abil­ity refers to en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, cul­tural preser­va­tion and re­spect for host com­mu­ni­ties. The so­lu­tions are as im­mense as the po­ten­tial that they of­fer. The strate­gies vary, depend­ing on the des­ti­na­tion, but also on the level of in­volve­ment of lo­cal stake­hold­ers. From our side, UNWTO has sev­eral tools, among which I would high­light our rec­om­men­da­tions and man­u­als on ac­ces­si­ble tourism and the UNWTO Net­work of Sus­tain­able Tourism Ob­ser­va­to­ries.

The Mid­dle East pos­sesses a par­tic­u­lar pride, which is al­ways rel­e­vant in de­vel­op­ing mea­sures to pro­tect her­itage, land­scapes and tra­di­tional cul­tures

3. How do you think Mid­dle Eastern com­pa­nies could be­come in­volved?

The first step to get­ting in­volved and build­ing com­mit­ment is to be in­formed and see the ben­e­fits. Through­out his­tory, we have wit­nessed stake­hold­ers of dif­fer­ent back­grounds begin­ning to con­trib­ute to causes of com­mon in­ter­est when they be­come aware of their im­pact. Be­sides this eth­i­cal com­po­nent, high­light­ing the ben­e­fits that com­pa­nies can en­joy when they be­come more sus­tain­able prompts a sec­ond level of en­gage­ment. This helps to in­crease cus­tomer trust. Their busi­ness be­comes more ef­fi­cient and this adds value in the medium and long term. From a more per­sonal an­gle, I be­lieve that the Mid­dle East, the cra­dle of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion, pos­sesses a par­tic­u­lar pride, which is al­ways rel­e­vant in de­vel­op­ing mea­sures to pro­tect her­itage, land­scapes and tra­di­tional cul­tures. Sus­tain­able tourism is about all of these. In this con­text, I in­vite all Mid­dle East coun­tries and com­pa­nies to sup­port the UNWTO cur­rent process of trans­form­ing the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism into an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion, and com­pa­nies to join the pri­vate sec­tor’s com­mit­ment to the Code, which we have been pro­mot­ing since 2011.

4. What are your views on the newly im­posed travel bans and how do you think in­ter­na­tional and re­gional pol­i­tics are af­fect­ing global and re­gional tourism?

We do not sup­port these de­ci­sions as they have proved to lead to greater mis­un­der­stand­ing and con­fronta­tion be­tween na­tions. Tourism is a language of di­a­logue, since, when we travel, we be­come more open-minded and more cul­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als, with global con­cerns. As tourism in­creases its pres­ence in na­tional strate­gies, global poli­cies will play a big­ger part in re­duc­ing dis­tances be­tween coun­tries.

5. How will tech­nol­ogy con­trib­ute to the fu­ture of tourism?

Tech­nol­ogy has al­ways con­trib­uted to the de­vel­op­ment of tourism, from the first maps, com­passes and sex­tants that guided trav­el­ers in the past. To­day, so­cial me­dia, de­vices that help to easily cap­ture the best mo­ments of our trips, dig­i­tal plat­forms that simplify travel, and strate­gies, such as the e-visa that speeds up pro­cesses, con­sti­tute

not an al­ter­na­tive, but a manda­tory com­po­nent of tourism de­vel­op­ment. We re­cently held the ‘I In­ter­na­tional’ con­fer­ence on smart des­ti­na­tions, and all ex­perts agreed on the tremen­dous value for des­ti­na­tions of in­vest­ing in these tech­nolo­gies.

6. What is your ad­vice to coun­tries where the tourism in­dus­try is get­ting back on track?

These coun­tries are con­sol­i­dated des­ti­na­tions and we’re con­fi­dent that sooner or later, they will re­gain the good fig­ures that they have al­ways en­joyed. Egypt’s case is par­tic­u­larly felt at UNWTO. Hav­ing worked in the tourism field for sev­eral decades, we know the po­ten­tial that the coun­try holds, the ef­fort put in and the role that Egypt has played in driv­ing re­gional tourism, serv­ing as a ref­er­ence for many coun­tries.

7. Where do you see re­gional tourism head­ing, and how would joint projects and routes, such as the Phoeni­cian Route and Silk Road, bring coun­tries to­gether?

The en­tire re­gion has a lot to of­fer, not only in terms of tourism, but also in par­al­lel ar­eas, such as cul­ture, re­new­able en­er­gies and busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, so I’m quite sure that the com­ing decades are go­ing to be very bright for this very spe­cial part of the world.

Tourism is a language of di­a­logue, since, when we travel, we be­come more open­minded and more cul­ti­vated in­di­vid­u­als

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