Industry experts have called upon the Middle East’s luxury travel sector to focus on long-term gains of decarbonization, waste reduction, and community initiatives, rather than costs. The panelists of the session on ‘Sustainable Luxury: At What Cost?’ at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 shared a range of insights at 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, panelists included Nadia Ibrahim, Member of the Board of Directors of UN Global Compact, Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President of 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.
No compromise on sustainability
Commenting on the growing demand for sustainable offerings among consumers, Nida 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. They do not compromise on sustainability. This is why airlines, hotels, travel agencies, and tourist destinations are thinking about how sustainability can be integrated into their existing services. How it can be used to attract more customers?.”
Referring to the approach Minor Hotels’ Anantara brand has taken to sustainable luxury, Amir Golbarg said: “Globalisation opened doors to the world, but I think localization is now equally important. We took the decision to go indigenous as a lot of 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.”
Connectivity with places
D’Cruz told attendees these considerations are increasingly reflected by consumers. “We are seeing that luxury travellers want to spend more time connecting with places they visit. They also want to be involved with brands. It’s no longer a one-way conversation. 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.”
This is not ‘Plan B’
Harley-Fleming emphasized the necessity of positive action, noting there is a genuine business case for sustainability. “This is not Plan B. “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 reputation. And at the end of the day, our industry does generate jobs, so we’ve got to act right now.”
The 30th edition of ATM is taking place as part of Arabian Travel Week (1-10 May 2023). It is a festival of events for enabling industry professionals to collaborate and capitalize on market opportunities. Exhibitions, conferences, breakfast briefings, awards, product launches, and networking are part of the event.
About Arabian Travel Market (ATM)
Now in its 30th year, the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) is the leading, international travel and tourism event in the Middle East for tourism professionals. ATM 2022 attracted over 24,000 visitors and hosted over 31,000 participants. The included 1,600 exhibitors and attendees from 151 countries. Arabian Travel Market is part of Arabian Travel Week.