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Tourism Leaders Speaking at ATM 2023 Say Luxury Tavel Operators must View Sustainability as a Long-Term Investment Rather than a Short-Term Cost

Tourism Leaders Speaking at ATM
  • Experts say guests no longer see sustainability as a compromise within luxury travel, and are now demanding environmentally responsible offerings
  • Panellists agree that decarbonisation will require significant financial backing, but warn the luxury travel industry cannot afford to ignore sustainability
  • Luxury brands must also focus on how they can positively impact surrounding communities socially and economically, according to speakers at ATM 2023

Rather than cost, the Middle East’s luxury travel sector should focus on the long-term gains offered by decarbonisation, waste reduction and community initiatives. That was the assessment of experts speaking on the opening day of Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023, which will run at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) until Thursday 4 May.

Sustainable Luxury: At What Cost?’ included a range of insights into how luxury travel is leading the tourism industry’s sustainable charge in the Middle East. Moderated by Joe Mortimer, Editor-at-Large at Destinations of the World News, panellists included

Nadia Ibrahim, Member of the Board of Directors, UN Global Compact
Nadia Ibrahim, Member of the Board, Directors, UN Global Compact

Nadia Ibrahim, Member of the Board of Directors of the UN Global Compact; Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President Operations – Middle East & Africa at Minor Hotels; Candice D’Cruz, VP Luxury Brands at Marriott International; and William Harley-Fleming, Vice President of Operations for JA The Resort and Indian Ocean.

Commenting on growing demand for sustainable offerings among consumers, the UN Global Compact’s Ibrahim said: “Luxury and sustainability have not always gone hand in hand, but this is changing. We are encountering a new generation of travellers that wants high-end experiences that do not compromise sustainability. This is why airlines, hotels, travel agencies and tourist destinations are thinking about how sustainability can be integrated into their existing services, and how it can be used to attract more customers.”

Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President Operations – Middle East & Africa,
Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President Operations – Middle East & Africa

Referencing the approach Minor Hotels’ Anantara brand has taken to sustainable luxury, Golbarg said: “Globalisation opened the doors to the world, but I think localisation is now equally important. We took the decision to go indigenous as a lot of the costs associated with sustainability relate to the importation of goods. It’s all about how you are benefitting the communities in which you operate. We need to shift our focus away from short-term costs towards long-term gains.”

William Harley-Fleming, Vice President of Operations for JA The Resort and Indian Ocean.
William Harley-Fleming, Vice President of Operations, JA The Resort and Indian Ocean

Marriott International’s D’Cruz told attendees these considerations are increasingly reflected by consumers. “We are seeing that luxury travellers want to spend more time really connecting with the places they visit. They also want to be involved with brands. It’s no longer a one-way conversation, and if you’re having two-way, how transparent are you being? Luxury consumers tend to be less forgiving; they want to connect with brands that reflect their values, and sustainability is definitely one of those values.”

Candice D’Cruz, VP, Marriott International
Candice D’Cruz, VP, Marriott International

JA The Resort and Indian Ocean’s Harley-Fleming emphasised the necessity of positive action, noting there is a genuine business case for sustainability. “This is not ‘Plan B’,” he said. “It’s not a choice anymore; it’s something we need to do. The cost of not [investing in sustainability] can adversely affect your business and its reputation. And at the end of the day, our industry does generate jobs, so we’ve got to act right now.”

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.

The 30th edition of ATM is taking place as part of Arabian Travel Week (1-10 May 2023), a festival of events dedicated to enabling industry professionals from all over the world to collaborate and capitalise on market opportunities through exhibitions, conferences, breakfast briefings, awards, product launches and networking events.

Those attending ATM 2023 in person can get involved in the conversation online by using the hashtag #ATMDubai when posting on social media channels.

ATM 2023 is being held in conjunction with Dubai World Trade Centre, and its strategic partners include Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) as the Destination Partner, Emirates as the Official Airline Partner, IHG Hotels & Resorts as the Official Hotel Partner, and Al Rais Travel as the Official DMC Partner.

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