With sustainability and ESG high up on the agenda at the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) in Dubai this September, we asked a number of industry partners how they are leading the change when it comes to sustainable tourism and hospitality.

The global tourism industry is facing the perfect storm of ongoing uncertainty, amplified by troubling inflation, concerns about recession, geo-political uncertainty and increasing fuel prices. How are destinations and operators facing these new challenges, and how can they successfully navigate through these troubled waters?

The tourism and hospitality industry has undoubtedly been among the most affected industries over the past 24 months or so. In my 20 plus years working with international hotel brands, global attractions and theme parks as well as starting-up several F&B and hospitality concepts, the past two years have given us all the opportunity to be daring. This new (and constantly changing) reality allows us to completely rethink and revolutionise the way we do things. My golden rule is that it’s essential to be agile, quick and decisive, and never lose sight of what’s needed to ensure long-term resilience.

In an ever-changing world, the pandemic brought into focus the need more so than ever to commit to a sustainable and responsible tourism growth. Even pre-pandemic, consumers were more mindful of sustainability and travelling in a responsible and purposeful manner and this trend is only accelerating. In a recent report from Booking.com, a huge 81% of global travelers confirmed that sustainable travel is important to them - a 10% increase over 2021 data - with 50% saying that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. Sustainability must now be top of mind for any destination’s long-term investment and hospitality development to tap into this evolving landscape.

Often when people talk about sustainability, it is usually just a buzzword that means recycling or reducing single-use plastic. The need for good stewardship of our cultural heritage, environment, people and infrastructure has never been stronger, especially as customers look to engage and connect with brands that reflect their evolving values.

The expectation for companies to back up words with impactful actions is becoming more important. As the licensing authority for all new hotel developments, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is able to set guidelines and protocols to regulate sustainability standards and work closely with hotels to ensure sustainable practices. To provide independent and transparent credentials, we work with EarthCheck, experts in global environment, to co-create green practices and together with our hotel partners, collectively reduce food wastage, energy and water consumption, as well as undertake green procurement from local suppliers. In addition, we have launched the “Green Hotels Rating” with the aim to achieve 100% integrated sustainability across our hotels.

However, sustainability is a lot more than environmental management, waste management and water consumption - it is also about economic progress and social development. True sustainability must encompass all aspects including environment, culture, conservation and liveability. This is something that emerging destinations such as Slovenia have done with great success and is the rationale behind Ras Al Khaimah’s own bold new approach to responsible stewardship and development - Balanced Tourism.

Under our all-encompassing banner of Balanced Tourism, the Authority is shaping tourism in the UAE by placing all aspects of sustainability (environment, culture, conservation and livability) at the center of its investment and development strategy. As part of this commitment, we have a adopted a measured approach with a controlled pipeline of sustainable development to ensure issues surrounding ‘over tourism’ – such as over development, crowding of heritage sites, and the spoiling of its unique natural environment – are avoided, and creating a destination that will resonate with today’s responsible traveller.

By working towards establishing the destination as a leader in sustainable tourism, we improve the lives of our citizens and workforce, protect and enhance our unique natural environments and traditional communities, as well as address the needs of the visitors and the industry.