Saudi Tourism Authority’s boss warned that “a lot of people talk about sustainability but few act on it” during a World Travel Market panel discussion which laid out the economic benefits destinations can expect if they are more environmentally conscious.
Saudi Tourism Authority chief executive Fahd Hamidaddin said sustainability is “very nicely talked about, but very poorly acted upon”, adding: “If we want to do good for tourism we need to deliver and invest in sustainability.
“A lot of people talk about sustainability but few act on it because it comes at a cost and a huge ticket price.”
He also highlighted how luxurious products today were sustainable and added that Saudi Arabia had safeguarded 70% of the country’s land for mineral reserves and was also rewilding 21 species of animals.
Hamidaddin said the sustainable measures put in place in the country would soon be tested, with Saudi Arabia targeting 100 million tourists each year by the end of 2030.
Tui’s chief strategy officer Peter Krueger said the holiday giant saw sustainability as “an opportunity”. “The return on investment is huge,” he said. “The interesting thing is it is not necessarily a cost but an investment.
“If you look at our hotels in the Maldives, if we put up solar panels we will get our return on investment back after three years. The business case is super attractive.”
Julia Simpson, president and chief executive of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), agreed with Krueger about the economic advantages.
She said: “I agree that sustainability is an opportunity. There’s a lot of money being invested in sustainability.”
But she warned: “One thing we need is to have a single narrative on sustainability. It’s important that we tell a story for everybody.
“The big hotel groups know what they’re doing on sustainability but 80% of the hotel sector is small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Looking ahead, Krueger and his fellow panellists stressed how much growth was being anticipated across travel.
Krueger said: “We always say that tourism is a force for good because the value transfer from a macro perspective from countries to up and coming destinations is a huge economic factor.
“There’s a little island in the Caribbean which is divided between two countries. One is Dominican Republic and the other is Haiti. If you go to Dominican Republic tourism is big, but Haiti was closed to tourism.”