Tourism professionals discuss sustainability & the growth of alternative lodging at ATM Virtual

  • Sustainability expert Harold Goodwin leads discussion on responsible tourism
  • Colliers examine growth potential and challenges facing EWAA tourism 

Under the theme of ‘A new dawn for travel & tourism’, the Arabian Travel Market Virtual event continued on day two (Tuesday 25 May) and after the morning hotel and aviation sessions, the focus turned towards sustainability.    

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market, remarked: “Sustainability in travel and tourism is vitally important for the future of our industry, with growing concerns about the industry’s impact on the environment. This is the issue of the hour. Hotels and destinations will have to balance short term financial recovery coming out of the pandemic, with a mid to longer term eco-friendly business strategy.” 

During a virtual conversation with top industry sustainability professionals, moderator Harold Goodwin, who is Responsible Tourism Advisor to the World Travel Market, presented a session entitled Responsible Hospitality in a Perfect Storm.

During his opening comments, Goodwin sought opinion from the panel about the environmental challenges facing hotels over the next decade, especially when the pandemic, has hit hotels hard financially, with many still focused on survival.     

In response, Eric Ricaurte, Founder and Chief Executive of hospitality consultancy Greenview, said: “By 2030 at the latest, hotels will be expected by their stakeholders to be net zero (emissions), 100% renewable energy. So, the problem at the moment is really coping with the pace of change to get there.” 

According to Singapore-based Ricaurte, the key to keeping pace with say retrofits or renovations, will, in part be dictated not only by consumer demand but by potential new green regulations, “Hotels will need to plan ahead for new regulations, allocating enough reserves through their CAPEX budgets.”

On the issue of measuring their sustainability performance and being transparent about the results, Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications at Radisson Hotel Group commented: “All major hospitality companies have been tracking their (sustainable) performance and we’ve all been setting reduction targets.

“But you need to recognise each hotel is different, there’s such a wide scope – you have resorts, boutique, upscale service, limited service, that an absolute number doesn’t really mean anything necessarily.

“I do believe that we need to build a framework, with agreed set sustainability criteria and that we should share that information transparently. Also, if travellers are interested, there is a very good framework created in collaboration with Cornell, where all relevant information is put into a database per destination.” 

Moving away from traditional hospitality and bricks and mortar resorts, the ecotourism industry, which is expected to achieve growth of CAGR 8% in the medium to long term, 

has been evolving, with some aspects such as ‘glamping’ even accelerating during the pandemic.

A special on demand session moderated by James Wrenn, Associate Director, Colliers Hotels MENA, looked at alternative lodging, under the heading of, ‘From luxury cabins to eco tents’ – one of the fastest growing touristic offerings.

According to Colliers, the evolution of the Eco, Wellness, Agri, and Adventure (EWAA) tourism industry can be attributed to the increased demand for sustainable lodging options, the change in people’s lifestyle, and the increased awareness of the impact of tourism on the environment. 

Simultaneously, the MENA region is in the process of establishing itself as a key destination for EWAA tourists with numerous developments underway. While initial EWAA projects were centered around individual luxury desert resorts particularly in the UAE, we now see the UAE, KSA, and Oman leading the development in this market with several projects and government masterplans.

Talking about financial performance, panelist Chris Nader, Advisor, Experiential Consulting, commented, “Ras Al Khaimah’s Jebel Jais camping resort had exceeded its budget (last year) which had actually been set before the pandemic. Local families in particular enjoyed the high-end, larger tents with space for distancing and privacy.”    

Elsewhere on the agenda at ATM Virtual 2021 and rather appropriately wrapping-up the three-day online event, was the GBTA Conference @ ATM 2021 Ready! Safe! Travel! 

This “big picture” segment examined just how ready the region is for its return to international travel, looking at GBTA’s BTI Business Travel Outlook for the Middle East; industry forecasts and looked at how governments had responded to the pandemic and their own readiness, in terms of border controls; travel restrictions and the roadmap out of the pandemic. 

Featured speakers included Iyad Rasbey, Executive Director, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority; Catherine Logan, Regional Vice President – EMEA, GBTA and Derek Sadubin, Managing Director, CAPA – Centre for Aviation

The Middle East Tourism Investment Summit organised by ITIC in partnership with Arabian Travel Market 2021 will also take place virtually tomorrow 27 May.

For the full virtual conference programme, please visit:

About Arabian Travel Market (ATM)

Arabian Travel Market (ATM), now on its 28th year, continues to be the focal point for the Middle East’s resilient and ever-changing travel and tourism landscape and prides itself on being the hub of all travel and tourism ideas, providing a platform to discuss insights on the ever-changing industry, share innovations and unlock endless business opportunities. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week. #IdeasArriveHere

In-person event: Sunday 16 to Wednesday 19 May 2021, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai 

Virtual event: Monday 24 to Wednesday 26 May 2021

About Arabian Travel Week

Arabian Travel Week is a festival of events taking place within and alongside Arabian Travel Market 2021. It includes ATM Virtual, Arival Dubai and Travel Forward – a new travel tech and hospitality innovation event launching this year. It also features the ATM Buyer Forums, the International Travel & Investment Conference (ITIC) Summit, Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) forum, as well as the Saudi and China Summits. Providing a renewed focus for the Middle East’s travel and tourism sector, Arabian Travel Week will take place in Dubai from Sunday 16th to Thursday 26th May 2021. 

About Reed Exhibitions Global

Reed Exhibitions is a leading global events business. It combines face-to-face with data and digital tools to help customers learn about markets, source products and complete transactions at over 400 events in 22 countries across 43 industry sectors, attracting more than 7 million participants. Our events leverage industry expertise, large data sets and technology to enable our customers to connect face-to-face or digitally and generate billions of dollars of revenues for the economic development of local markets and national economies around the world. Reed Exhibitions is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics for professional and business customers. 

About RELX

RELX is a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America. The shares of RELX PLC, the parent company, are traded on the London, Amsterdam and New York Stock Exchanges using the following ticker symbols: London: REL; Amsterdam: REN; New York: RELX.  The market capitalisation is approximately £33bn, €39bn, $47bn.*

About World Travel Market

World Travel Market (WTM) Portfolio comprises leading travel events, online portals and virtual platforms across four continents, generating more than $7.5 billion of industry deals. The events are:

WTM London, the leading global event for the travel industry, is the must-attend three-day exhibition for the worldwide travel and tourism industry. Around 50,000 senior travel industry professionals, government ministers and international media visit ExCeL London every November, generating over £3.71 billion in travel industry contracts. 

Next event: Monday 1 November to 3 November 2021 at ExCel London

WTM Virtual, is the WTM Portfolio virtual platform, created to offer global delegates the chance to arrange one-to-one virtual meetings, to do business, attend conference sessions and roundtables, take part in speed networking and more. WTM Virtual embrace the global leading travel shows in one platform.

WTM Latin America attracts around 19,000 participants – 11,586 unique. The trade show, which takes place in São Paulo, has a worldwide audience that meets to establish the direction of the travel industry. The event is recognised for attracting a high level of professionals from the segment, including buyers and travel agents. It also offers programmes with qualified content and plenty of opportunities for networking and generating business that is relevant to the travel industry.

Next event: Tuesday 3 to Thursday 5 August 2021 – Expo Center Norte, São Paulo

WTM Africa launched in 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa. More than 6,000 travel industry professionals attend Africa’s leading inbound and outbound travel and tourism market. WTM Africa delivers a proven mix of hosted buyers, media, pre-scheduled appointments, on-site networking, evening functions and invited travel trade visitors.

Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town