Fairmont Dubai's PR manager and eco-champion explains the global push toward responsible tourism.
Worldwide, the travel and tourism industry is responsible for more than 230 million jobs,close to 9% of the world's employment and over 10% of the world's GDP.
Half a century ago, 25 million people engaged in travel and tourism; by 2005 this grew to a staggering 806 million. It is expected that this number will rise to 1.5 billion by 2020.
Responsible tourism is more than just a nice idea. It makes good business sense as well.
Tourism aids economic growth and development. But as it continues to grow, concerns about how to manage it carefully are at an all time high. As travellers seek out new locations and embrace their authenticity, the pressure placed on these areas will be magnified.
Eco-tourism emerged in response to these concerns during the 1990s. This also evolved into what is known today as ‘sustainable tourism' and ‘responsible travel', bringing it to the mainstream tourism industry, from city hotels and beach resorts to the cruise line industry.
What is responsible tourism? It's a new way of travelling for those who have had enough of mass tourism. It's about offering environmentally and locally sensitive and sustainable operations that minimize any harm, and deliver benefits to the local economy, ecosystems and the community. It involves local people and brings guests closer to local cultures and environments.
In the hospitality industry, responsible tourism is more than just a nice idea. It makes good business sense as well. It guarantees us a place to operate and helps us attract and retain the best employees. This was illustrated by a recent recruitment trip to the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne in Switzerland, one of the leading hospitality management schools.
It was here where a group of students interested in eco-tourism and sustainability as a viable practice in hotels, approached us about the role played by The Fairmont Dubai in environmental stewardship. These students later expressed that not only was ‘green' a lure for today's eco-conscious traveller, but that as potential future employees, they also saw this as one of the aspects that attracted new staff to a hotel company.
As a hotel, you should try to work with external partners to offer responsible-tourism activities, but be sure to work with ones who are reputable and whose goals are aligned with your company's.
The Fairmont Dubai has partnered with the Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), a local non-government organization that has worked for 11 years in the UAE on enhancing environmental awareness, eco-knowledge and capacity building. It is also the first environmental NGO in the world to be accredited with the ISO 14001:2004 certification for its environmental management system.
Because responsible tourism is a relatively new industry, the terminology used to describe it is still evolving. You will still hear "ecotourism", as well as newer terms, such as sustainable tourism and geotourism. It all boils down to the basic principles of good environmental stewardship.
Getting the word out to guests is also key. The Fairmont Dubai offers the following information for guests wanting to make their travels a bit more sustainable and ensure they leave less of a carbon footprint.
• Before you board your flight, consider the impact. An average person who takes one or two trips abroad emits nearly 10 tons of carbon a year. If everyone in this world emitted this much carbon, we would need 2 ½ planets to support us all. To mitigate the effects of travel, consider carbon offsets, which can be bought from organizations such as Sustainable Travel international's My Climate Programme (www.sustainabletravel.com).
• Choose accommodation known for its environmental policies and practices. Fairmont's Green partnership programme was created in 1990 to minimize the operating impacts of our hotels on the planet, and this is also reflected in our international properties.
• Be careful with your souvenir selections and never buy those made from endangered plants and animals. Use reusable bags, and take only as many brochures and maps as you really need for your sightseeing trips.
• When traveling, consider resource consumption the same way you would at home. Turn off lights when you leave the room, use air conditioning wisely, and ask yourself if you really need your sheets and towels changed every day.
• Think about your cell phone. You might think of cell phones, because of their size, as a waste stream problem. But with an average mobile phone ownership lifespan of just 18 months, the millions of mobile phones used worldwide and their content of plastic, lead, nickel, cadmium and fire retardants, it really just ends up in the trash.
• Commit to buying the mobile phone you need, own it as long as possible and donate it to charity afterwards. Launched in early summer, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) initiated a mobile collection drive to recycle mobile phones and accessories.
• Give feedback to the businesses that are doing great work. Applaud their efforts by passing along compliments to owners, managers and staff. Don't be afraid to offer suggestions, as this is crucial for improvement.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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