Industry expert Dr. Susanne Becken to speak at 2nd World Green Tourism Conference, Abu Dhabi
September 15, 2011
An industry expert leading research into the vulnerability of global tourism to oil prices and future oil constraints has set the stage for a debate with Middle East specialists on whether sufficient investments are being made in sustainability.
Dr. Susanne Becken, Associate Professor at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand, will raise questions over current global tourism growth projections at the second World Green Tourism Conference in Abu Dhabi.
Dr Becken, currently leading two government-funded tourism programmes in New Zealand, will tell delegates in the UAE capital from December 5-7 that a strong sustainability focus is key to major tourism expansion in the Middle East, which also faces challenges from climate change.
Speaking on 'Tourism in an energy constrained world,' Dr Becken says, "This is a topic which does not receive the necessary attention at the moment given that energy is one of, if not the, most important input factors into tourism. The fact that World Green Tourism is hosted by an Arab country where oil export plays an important role adds to the opportunity of sharing my research findings on tourism's vulnerability to oil prices and future oil constraints. The high profile nature of the summit will enhance the effect of my message."
"My research focuses on how tourism depends on energy and how the finite resource of oil may pose challenges to tourism in the future, in particular in connection with the problem of carbon dioxide emissions and climate change," Dr Becken added.
Added Dr Becken, "I am amazed by the expansion and extent of tourism development in the Middle East, especially in the aviation industry. I sincerely hope that the current investments are made with sustainability in mind, and in particular energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources, and also efficient use of water resources. I am slightly doubtful that global tourism will grow as expected over the next few decades and I would value discussion with Middle Eastern tourism experts on their views on this and how investments that are based on solid growth are made."
Organised by Streamline Marketing Group and taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), 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.
Dr. Becken will reveal to conference delegates why two New Zealand government funded tourism research projects she manages - 'Tourism and Oil' and 'Preparing the Tourism Sector for Climate Change' - are applicable in the Middle East.
"Some of the more detailed research in New Zealand, for example how certain types of businesses or tourists are affected by higher oil prices, is likely to be applicable elsewhere in the world, especially the Middle East," she said. "There are important aspects of the oil intensity of supply chains, for example energy embodied in water and food, which could be very relevant for the Middle East."
Tourism is New Zealand's biggest export earner, attracting 2.5 million tourists a year with an average stay of 23 days, compared to just three days that tourists spend in the UAE.
Dr Becken says New Zealand's image as a clean, green country has kept it at the forefront as a travel destination of choice for holiday makers, and this is something Middle East countries can aspire to.
But she warned that the image has been achieved through serious efforts towards sustainability, ensuring tourists do not accuse the country of "greenwashing' to make it look more environmentally friendly than it is."The Middle East tries to portray an image of progress and new technology and this could be favourably worked into tourism developments," said Dr Becken. "Innovation, creativity, renewable energy resources, zero waste are keywords that could be incorporated into a Middle Eastern tourism strategy."
World Green Tourism has so far attracted 25 high profile speakers, including Hon. Dato Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, the Minister of Tourism, Malaysia and the Vice President of Malaysian Chinese Association. The event is held under the patronage of H.H.Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, ADTA's Chairman.