Surfing Travel and Tourism the latest wave of challenges
Tourism comes in many guises and especially so in the MENA region. It has become a mixture of acronyms and specialities - from MICE1, FITs and GITs2, to Hajj and Umrah trips, luxury tailor-made tours to all-inclusives. This region has paradoxically become one of the leading lights in both religious and luxury travel. Our article looks at a few of the pertinent aspects of tourism and travel today, and considers how one of the largest employers will have a real impact on the future prosperity and survival of the region.
As one of the world’s largest industries in terms of employment and revenues, tourism has the potential to alleviate poverty, end hunger, banish gender inequality and halt environmental degradation in the world’s most vulnerable regions. But all of this depends entirely upon whether it is managed correctly, and whether those involved in the industry are willing to look at the potential benefits of moving towards a more sustainable form of travel and tourism. The challenges - which not only affect our region but many others - include political instability, the health of the economy and visa restrictions. Of these three issues, we have previously featured many articles; therefore, we can do little but underline how important 'getting it right' is for the future of the region.
Sustainable ... or simply not viable?
The UN's Sustainable Development Goals were drawn up to help countries, governments, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and communities - especially those working in the tourism sector - preserve their natural environment. In an article on sustainable tourism in our region, by Megan Setchell3 writing for EMG Group (Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability consultancy), the author outlines that tourists value their holidays when their presence has a positive effect. As tourists now evaluate all parts of the industry for sustainability – from the airline they fly with to the hotel in which they stay – it is raising the bar for all suppliers and services involved. An increasing focus on tourism may also help the region's efforts to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels. With widespread environmental degradation and in particular, water scarcity, it is crucial that the tourism sector goes some way to monitoring its use of environmental resources – not least because sustainability is a ‘pull factor’ for many tourists coming to the region. Sustainably managed tourism can be an effective way to preserve regional assets, whether they are natural or cultural. Tourism must always be sensitive to the local culture and environment to ensure longevity, and our region is demonstrating a proactive and committed effort towards achieving this.
Throwing in the towel
How a daily linen change should now be a thing of the past Have you ever been asked to think again about asking for fresh towels and linen in a hotel? If so, this means that the hotel you stayed in probably signed up to some of the global targets to assist hotels reducing their energy and water consumption as part of a larger global trend. UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is just one of many driving this change. The hotel sector is one of the tourism industry’s largest drivers of employment and economic revenue but at the same time it is one of the most energy-intensive. In fact, hotels and other types of accommodation account for 2% of the 5% global CO2 emitted by the tourism sector. Focus on helping Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is particularly important, as the utilization of outdated technologies, lack of human and financial resources and a limited awareness and knowledge on greener alternatives may all be contributing to decreasing their competitiveness. In addition, SMEs are usually less proactive about the environment in comparison to larger hotel chains. Helping the sector respond to the challenges of climate change is thereby necessary. Hotel Energy Solutions (HES) is one of UNWTO's projects in