Traveling is a modern day luxury, yet it often comes with a heavy yet silent ecological footprint. The Middle East is witnessing a rise in tourism in the years following COVID. This year’s Arabian Travel Market 2023 focused highly on sustainable tourism and mitigating travel’s dent on the climate. And while the tourism sector is getting greener by the day, it is crucial that travelers continue embracing sustainable tourism consciously and holistically; from social, economic, and environmental perspectives.
Last year, AESG reported that the sustainable tourism market in the Middle East was worth an estimated $246 billion in 2022. Globally, sustainable tourism is expected to reach a value of $17 trillion by 2027.
Join us as we delve into some of the ways responsible travel is becoming more frequent in the Middle East.
When planning your trip, consider staying at eco-friendly accommodations that prioritize sustainable practices. Many hotels and resorts in the Middle East have embraced green initiatives, such as energy-efficient lighting, water conservation measures, and waste reduction programs. Seek out establishments that have obtained eco-certifications or actively promote sustainable operations. Additionally, consider alternative lodging options like eco-lodges or guesthouses that offer a more authentic experience while supporting local communities. Measures such as these demonstrate the Middle East’s commitment to preserving its natural resources, a crucial part of its heritage.
A few examples include: Red Sea Global, which is addressing climate change and regenerating the region’s coral reefs. El Gouna also implements a zero-waste system, and reuses or recycles the majority of their waste.
Embrace local, sustainable activities
When planning your itinerary, prioritize sustainable activities that promote conservation and cultural understanding. Support local guides and tour operators who adhere to sustainable practices, such as responsible wildlife encounters, respecting local customs, and minimizing environmental impact. Explore nature reserves, national parks, and protected areas to appreciate the region’s unique ecosystems while contributing to their preservation. Engage in community-based tourism initiatives that empower local communities economically and socially, ensuring that tourism benefits are distributed equitably.
Notable conservation initiatives include: AlUla, Saudi Arabia. The tourism sector in Al Ula heavily collaborates with the local community, who is involved in the planning, developing, and managing of tourism destinations in the area. Not only does this ensure a circular economy, but it also allows for collaborative preservation of the area’s heritage and traditions. Tourists who visit are assured cultural exchange alongside the authentic experience.
Dive into local customs and cultures
Cultural sensitivity is crucial for sustainable travel. Take the time to understand the local customs and etiquette of the countries you plan to visit in the Middle East. Respect dress codes, religious practices, and social norms to avoid inadvertently causing offense. Engaging with local communities in a respectful way fosters cultural exchange and understanding. By valuing diverse cultures, we can contribute to the preservation and protection of local heritage.
Did you know? In 2022, 11 Arab customs, traditions, and skills were added to the list of UNESCO’s heritage sites.
Opting for sustainable travel while touring the Middle East is a powerful way to explore the region while minimizing the impact on the environment, and supporting local communities. By choosing eco-conscious accommodations and sustainable activities, and respecting local customs, we can ensure that our travels leave a positive and long-lasting legacy. Let’s embark on a journey of discovery while treading lightly on our beautiful planet.
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