Climate change under spotlight on the opening day of ATM 2023 - GulfToday

Climate change under spotlight on the opening day of ATM 2023


Tourism and economy figureheads during a panel discussion on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market in Dubai on Monday.

Sajjad Ahmad, Deputy Business Editor

The climate crisis was under the spotlight during the opening session of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 on Monday 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 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.

Despite political and economic challenges, Lebanon has attracted a significant number of tourists since 2022. In the summer of last year, Lebanon welcomed two million tourists, a quarter of which were international. As a result of the growth in visitor numbers, rural tourism has seen a boost, an area of tourism which is more sustainable and, therefore, more favourable to the issue of climate change.   

Speaking on the growth of rural tourism, Nassar said, “The guesthouse sector has grown in the last two to three years in Lebanon, which has been a welcome trend. We have now established a syndicate of over 150 guesthouses, encouraging tourism in more remote areas.”    Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME for Arabian Travel Market, said: “The issue of climate change has never been more topical or urgent, and the strategies discussed at today’s opening session provided the perfect launchpad for ATM 2023 as we explore the future of sustainable travel under the theme: “Working towards net zero.”     Curtis added: “Over the next three days, we will be hearing from leading voices across diverse segments of the global travel and tourism sector, all aligned on a shared vision to improve the climate change situation and ensure environmental protection.”    

Elsewhere on the agenda: Day one of ATM 2023 featured 20 sessions across the Global Stage, Travel Tech Stage and Sustainability Hub. Other highlights from the day included the Technology: The Enabler of Sustainable Travel session,  the funding of sustainability and Enhancing the Customer Experience Through AI. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance also touched on the importance of protecting the locations, livelihoods and communities in which hotels are based, in the Achieving Net Positive Hospitality session.

Visitors attend the Dubai stand at the Arabian Travel Market at World Trade Centre in Dubai. Kamal Kassim/ Gulf Today

Qatar Airways at ATM: Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar held a strong presence on the first day of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) conference. Showcasing the FIA World Endurance Championship hypercar, Qatar Airways garnered heavy attention around the stand.

As recently announced, the airline significantly grew its network to over 160 destinations and focused on expansion in the Gulf region.

A press conference hosted by Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, Akbar Al Baker; Chief Operating Officer, Hamad International Airport, Engr. Badr Al Meer; and Chief Commercial Officer, Thierry Antinori highlighted a network expansion and tourism developments.

Al Baker introduced the addition of a new destination, Tabouk, Saudi Arabia, as well as the resumption of service to Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.  

The airline currently flies to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and more recently, will begin services to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE. Qatar Airways currently operates 84 weekly flights to the UAE, firmly cementing the importance of the region.

Akbar Al Baker, said: “We are excited to be present at this year’s Arabian Travel Market. Our commitment to offering our passengers world-class products and services remains steadfast as we continue to grow and expand our network. With exciting events lined up in Qatar, we are certain that our country will continue to thrive as a tourism hub for years to come.”

Qatar Airways will highlight its partnership with Formula 1, and its role as the world-renowned racing series’ official airline, demonstrating Qatar Airways’ dedication to supporting top-tier international sporting events and adding on to its sports sponsorship portfolio.

The Global Partner and Official Airline of F1, in partnership with Qatar Airways Holidays, launched travel packages allowing fans to be up-close to high-octane action, and exclusively enjoy unique experiences and special events for each F1 racing event.

Taman Safari Indonesia: Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI) Group and its ten business units are participating in the Arabian Travel Market 2023 which are taking place at Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai, UAE, 1-4 May 2023.

 As the largest animal conservation organization in Indonesia, safari and theme parks are very popular with Middle Eastern tourists and will become one of the tourist attractions that support Indonesia’s tourism industry which is recovering after the pandemic. TSI Group looks forward to increasing the possibility of future cooperation with regional and international companies.

Taman Safari Indonesia has more than 8,700 animals, 400 species, and is visited by more than 5 million visitors every year. With its contribution to saving, recovering, and releasing thousands of animals into the wild since 1980, TSI has become one of the world’s conservation organizations for Indonesia’s endemic animals and world endangered species (according to the categories and criteria of the IUCN Red List). TSI also has 4 international certifications and 16 national awards for conservation and recreation centers.

“The decision to join Arabian Travel Market was due to this great opportunity to provide global exposure to expand the network with new partners both regionally and internationally. With this participation, we look forward to enhancing and exploring future partnerships with travel agencies across the Middle East and as a medium to introduce all of TSI’s business units. Over the years, TSI Group has always developed and represented a leading wildlife and family recreation park not only in Indonesia, but also in the Middle East,” said Alexander Zulkarnain, Vice President Media & Event TSI Group.

Taman Safari Indonesia opened its first animal conservation area, namely Taman Safari Bogor in Cisarua, Bogor, West Java in April 1986. After a decade, TSI expanded by establishing Taman Safari Indonesia II East Java in Prigen, Pasuran, East Java in December 1997. Second success, the conservation area by TSI encouraged the company to build other conservation areas, namely Bali Safari Marine Park, Central Java Safari Beach, Jakarta Aquarium & Safari, and its newest franchise, Solo Safari. TSI also oversees a few business units to meet tourism needs, such as the Royal Safari Garden, Safari Resort, Baobab Safari Resort, Mara River Safari Lodge, and Safari Wonders. TSI has a vision to become an animal conservation area as well as education and research-based tourism.

Germany focus on sustainability: The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) presented a campaign update on Monday, for their vision of ‘Making Tourism More Sustainable’ to GCC travel professionals at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023.

Under the slogan, ‘Germany, simply inspiring’, GNTB is focusing on the sustainable related aspects across a number of tourism segments, which include:

Embrace German Nature, highlighting natural landscapes and activity holidays; Historic Modern Germany, promoting cultural heritage and 51 UNESCO World Heritage sites, with a spotlight on traditions and customs of rural regions. And thirdly, their Feel Good - Sustainable Travel in Germany campaign, emphasising how to enjoy an environmentally friendly holiday in Germany.

“We aim to make a meaningful contribution towards climate change mitigation, supporting Germany’s commitment to net zero, as well as driving increasing numbers of environmentally aware, inbound GCC tourists,” said Yamina Sofo, Director at the German National Tourist GCC Office (GNTO GCC), an affiliate of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB).   

“We want to present Germany as an all-year-round destination, that is not only sustainable, but diverse, accessible, inclusive, resilient and viable for the future,” she added.

The GCC region is now Germany’s top performing inbound source market in Asia and Australasia, with 404,707 GCC guests generating almost 1.13 overnight stays during 2022, representing an increase of 117.6%, compared with the same period in 2021.   

“These figures confirm that Germany continues to be a preferred tourism destination for GCC visitors and unspoilt nature and careful use of resources are clearly becoming increasingly important to them. We also want to encourage longer stays in order to reduce the carbon footprint per travel day,” said Sofo.

Germany boasts more than 350 spa and health resorts and the GNTB is focusing on the sustainability-related aspects of health tourism. These include the preservation of traditional treatment methods, location-specific treatments and remedies as drivers of regional prosperity, and examples of sustainable energy management.

There is also growing interest in low-impact tourism which is supporting climate goals and making tourism more resilient. More than one-third of Germany’s land area is under special protection as a nature park or national park, it has around 200,000 kilometres of walking trails and 70,000 kilometres of long-distance cycle routes. There has also been a resurgence of interest in traditional lifestyles in rural regions, which has further bolstered Germany’s image as a sustainable travel destination.

In addition, Germany boasts 51 World Heritage sites, over 6,000 museums, offering a wealth of interesting places of cultural and historical significance.  

The GNTB’s focus on sustainability provides synergy with the official ATM 2023 theme - ‘Working Towards Net Zero’. In addition, Dubai will be the host for COP28 this year and outbound tour operators and travel agents will no doubt have sustainable travel at the top of their agendas.

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