World Green Tourism to spotlight current consumer trends in travel related to responsible tourism
July 20, 2011
Organised by Streamline Marketing Group, World Green Tourism, the first commercial conference and exhibition specifically for the sustainable tourism sector, is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.
The inclusion of Al Ain - Abu Dhabi emirate's second city and its heritage heartland - on the UNESCO World Heritage List represents a huge opportunity for responsible tourism in the UAE to flourish, with the country's 'Oasis City' at the forefront, an industry expert says.
Justin Francis, co-founder of the pioneering travel website, responsibletravel.com, will spotlight current consumer trends in travel related to responsible tourism when he joins an international line-up of speakers at the second World Green Tourism conference taking place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from December 5-7.
"As the first UAE site to be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list, a great responsibility comes with having what is now recognised as one of the world's greatest and most important cultural treasures", said Justin Francis.
"It will be thrust into the spotlight as a remarkable place to visit, and all eyes will be watching to see how it is being conserved for future generations. I encourage the UAE to embrace this responsibility and benefit from a huge opportunity for responsible tourism in the country to flourish, with Al Ain at the forefront".
"For the UAE, as in other countries in the Middle East, if there is a real desire from organisations, tourism providers and opinion formers, a lot can be achieved," said Francis.
"I am excited to be attending World Green Tourism, particularly on the back of the Al Ain announcement, and look forward seeing firsthand how responsible tourism is developing there, as well as sharing the benefit of our experience at responsibletravel.com".
In 2001, inspired by a village elder on a visit to Kawaza village in Zambia, Francis wrote his MSc dissertation on establishing a portal for responsible travel. He launched responsibletravel.com a year later as "the first business in the world to talk about responsible travel and tourism."
His backers included the late Dame Anita Roddick, environmental campaigner and founder of The Body Shop. His UK-based organisation has since worked with hundreds of tourism businesses to screen them for the site, and help them improve their policies.
In 2004, Francis founded the world's largest award scheme for responsible holidays, the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. Since its inception in 2004 more than 11,000 nominations have been received from the public, highlighting the importance of the way consumer trends impact the future direction of the tourism industry.
Francis also devised successful campaigns to persuade travel giants Thomson Holidays, Thomas Cook and MyTravel to publish policies for responsible tourism.
Francis says Jordan and Oman lead the way in the Middle East for the development of responsible tourism and are model examples for other countries in the region to follow. "Jordan has made great strides forward in terms of its commitment to responsible tourism", Francis said.
"We've worked closely with the country in developing a guide to Jordan and it has a wealth of local stories to tell, and is embracing them. Similarly, Oman has a commendable approach to embracing responsible tourism, and has been working to promote that for a number of years".
The commitment to preserving the natural and cultural heritage in the region has been highlighted recently with Jordan's Wadi Rum and the ancient villages of Northern Syria also being granted world heritage status by UNESCO. Wadi Rum has joined three other sites in Jordan - Petra, Quseir Amra and Um er-Rasas - on the list.
As with most Middle East countries, tourism is a crucial element to economic growth in Jordan and Oman. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the direct contribution from tourism to Jordan's GDP for 2011 is expected to reach nearly $2.5bn, (8.3% of GDP), and generate 130,000 jobs.
An influx of nearly 4.5 million tourists is expected to visit the country in 2011.
The expected contribution from travel and tourism to Oman's GDP for 2011 is $1.9bn (3% of GDP), generating 35,000 jobs directly (3.2% of total employment). The country is expected to attract 1.2 million international tourists.
Among the other high profile speaker at the World Green Tourism conference is H.H. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, the Environment Advisor for Ajman Government, most commonly referred to as 'The Green Sheikh'. The event is held under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, ADTA's Chairman.