Comment: The rising trend of sustainable hospitality

Comment: The rising trend of sustainable hospitality
Abdulla Al Nuaimi
Published: 9 October 2019 - 12:45 p.m.
Dubai’s tourism industry has experienced phenomenal growth over the past decade. As the emirate gears up to welcome as many as 20 million visitors by 2020, hospitality has become one of the key pillars of the economy. But it is resource-intensive and has a wide-reaching impact on the natural environment – from water and energy demands, to increases in emissions and waste.

With tourism numbers projected to grow and new hotels openings anticipated, it is crucial for the industry to ramp up sustainability efforts. Hospitality businesses that have already embraced sustainable practices are benefitting from lower operational costs and substantial reputational gains. Not only does this help them stay competitive in a challenging market, it also makes them more attractive to today’s conscientious travellers.

Good for the bottom line, and the planet
Travellers have become more mindful about the environmental impact of their journeys and are increasingly seeking to balance their passion for travel with their desire to preserve natural habitats and support local communities. This trend of eco-tourism is driven in large part by younger generations – Millennials and Gen Z – as well as by high earners.

There are plenty of opportunities for hospitality businesses to reduce their consumption of natural resources and improve their sustainability. There are also numerous resources to support hotels in these endeavours.

As part of its Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) prepared a “12 Step Sustainability Guideline” that details how hotels can conserve energy, save water, manage waste, and engage staff and guests – with the objective of achieving significant reductions in their environmental footprint and operational costs. For example, an energy conservation system alone can help reduce energy costs by 15-20% on a sustainable basis. Increasing thermostat temperatures by 1°C can lead to further savings – up to 5% of air-conditioning and ventilation costs.

DTCM’s survey of the global industry illustrates that sustainable practices have helped hospitality businesses reduce energy and water consumption costs by more than 20%, reduce solid waste and waste-water disposal costs by more than 15%, improve the quality of the tourism ecosystem in which they operate, and improve staff motivation.

Hotels can further optimise cost savings by identifying opportunities that are unique to their operations. As an example, a 5-star hotel in Dubai was able to achieve AED 90,000 costs savings per year simply by switching off computers for 12 hours a day and using more efficient equipment.

Simplifying sustainability - there’s a board game for that!
Unfortunately, the complexity of sustainability is often cited as a barrier to achieving meaningful progress in pursuit of this objective. Emirates Nature-WWF and DTCM have worked together in partnership to address this issue in the UAE’s hospitality and tourism sector.

Throughout the course of this long-term partnership, the two teams have engaged in interactive activities, meetings and workshops to develop a clear understanding of the issues facing the sector and to test a series of technical challenges and solutions. This process led to the development of a hospitality sustainability board game to advise and inform sector leaders on issues such as reducing carbon emissions through the reduction of electricity and water consumption. The Sustainable Hotel Board Game allows hoteliers to calculate the cost of electricity and water in Dubai, identify suitable retrofit options, calculate new consumption patterns and demonstrate measurable savings to the bottom line.

Accelerate sustainability with strategic partnerships
Partnerships can help overcome common obstacles in implementing a sustainability strategy, such as lack of resources, time, knowledge and dedicated staff. Specialist non-profit organisations like Emirates Nature-WWF can help hospitality businesses embark on their sustainability strategy with access to industry experts, local knowledge and science-based solutions.

With nearly two decades of experiences working in the UAE, Emirates Nature-WWF can support hotels with resource management, emission reductions, participation in public initiatives, engagement with staff and conscientious customers, and more. Hoteliers can also work with us to implement innovative campaigns that support local conservation programmes or collaborate on large scale events like Earth Hour UAE. These initiatives drive meaningful change that allow our society, economy and environment to thrive side by side.

Building a sustainable future for us all
Sustainable development will be key to helping the hospitality and tourism industry keep up with growing numbers of travellers and increased demand for valuable resources. By acting now, hotels will be well-poised to cater to today’s Millennials and Gen Z as well as the next generations to come. To partner with us and become a part of the movement to build a sustainable future for all, visit

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