April, 2024

Ministerial and economic figures place climate change at the top of the agenda as ATM 2023 opens

The climate crisis was under the spotlight during the opening session of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 today at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The discussion gathered tourism and economy figureheads from across the Middle East region to address how the travel industry needs to adapt to tackle the issue of climate change and meet current regulations by implementing new sustainable policies, funds and support.

Taking place on the Global Stage at ATM, the discussion was moderated by Eleni Giokos, Anchor and Correspondent CNN, and the prestigious line-up of speakers included Sujit Mohanty, Regional Division for the Arab States, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR); Dr Abed Al Razzaq Arabiyat, Managing Director, Jordan Tourism Board; and H.E. Walid Nassar, Minister of Tourism, Lebanon.

According to Sustainable Travel International, tourism is responsible for approximately 8% of global carbon emissions from transport, food and beverage, accommodation and related goods and services. The opening session at ATM looked at the industry's crucial role in climate change – a particularly pertinent topic as the UAE prepares to host COP28 later this year.

The UNDRR works closely with governments, the private sector and stakeholders across the globe, including 22 Arab nations, to reduce disaster risk. Building a picture of the current situation, Mohanty said, “Globally, in the last 20 years, there have been $2.97 trillion in economic losses due to disasters. Climate change is leading to more frequent and severe climate-related hazards such as floods, heatwaves, cyclones and hurricanes. In turn, the tourism industry loses enormous amounts of money due to these hazards. Therefore the return on investment is clear – invest now to help protect the
future.”

Jordan is one of the highest-ranking countries in the region on The Euromonitor Environmental Sustainability Index and responsible tourism is now a key focus for the nation. “Educating both businesses and travellers on how they contribute to the carbon footprint is one of our key priorities. In parallel with education, we are offering incentives to hotels, businesses and other stakeholders to encourage sustainable practices, ” said Dr Arabiyat.

Lebanon has successfully attracted a large number of tourists despite facing political and economic challenges. In the summer of 2022, the country welcomed two million tourists, with a quarter of them coming from international destinations. This growth in visitor numbers has had a positive impact on rural tourism, which is considered more sustainable and therefore better for the environment.

H.E. Nassar highlighted the trend of growth in the guesthouse sector over the last two to three years, which has encouraged tourism in more remote areas. Currently, over 150 guesthouses have been established in Lebanon, contributing to the growth of rural tourism.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME for Arabian Travel Market, emphasized the importance of addressing climate change in the travel and tourism sector. She said that the strategies discussed during the opening session of ATM 2023 will help set the tone for sustainable travel, which is the theme of the event.

Over the three-day event, ATM 2023 will feature sessions covering various topics such as sustainable travel technology, funding sustainability, customer experience through AI, and net positive hospitality.

Day two will feature a discussion between John Strickland and Sir Timothy Clark, KBE President of Emirates Airline, focusing on Emirates’ growth in passenger traffic and the challenges and opportunities facing the airline. The Travel Tech stage will feature a digital consumer focus, while the Sustainability Hub will discuss green technology and how it can reduce carbon emissions, water consumption, and waste.

ATM 2023 is organized in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre and has various strategic partners, including Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, Emirates, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Al Rais Travel. The event is part of Arabian Travel Week, a 10-day-long festival celebrating travel and tourism.

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