Anton Bawab, The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) head of operations, on why regenerative tourism is the future of hospitality
Across the public and political landscape, resolving climate change remains top of the agenda. This was most recently symbolised at June’s G7 meeting, with fresh environmental commitments, such as promising to move away from coal power and halting and reversing biodiversity loss by 2030.
The global tourism industry is no different in wanting to change the way it interacts with the environment, given the sector contributes more than 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. An increasing number of destinations have shifted to put sustainability at their core, intending to maintain the local environment and avoid damaging it further.
However, forward thinking-destinations today are going further than simply conserving local environments. Instead, they’re seeking to actually enhance ecosystems, championing the transition towards regenerative tourism.
Time to Regenerate
After centuries of human impact, many ecosystems and environments are depleted in abundance and health, so conserving a weakened state is no longer an option. Tourism has impacted environments. That is why regenerative tourism, with its aim to restore the planet, is so vital.
There is a commercial impetus to this, too. Traveller demand for this type of tourism is growing rapidly, with more than two-thirds of tourists now expecting the industry to offer sustainable options.
With younger people generally more eco-conscious than their parents, we can expect this demand to grow and become more urgent
Leading the Way
Tourist destinations with sustainability at their heart are set to gain the competitive edge over those that subscribe to old values of profit at all costs. The Red Sea Project in Saudi Arabia is a destination with different values, believing that nature is our most important asset. It’s leading the way in regenerative tourism, with a commitment to achieve a 30% net conservation benefit by 2040, a target previously unheard of in our sector.
To achieve this, a wide range of initiatives have been introduced. This includes the expansion of a local mangrove tree forest area by 30% (around 6km2), which will help to protect the local coastline while significantly increasing the carbon storage capacity of the area. Additionally, the destination will use renewable energy in a way that hasn’t been tried anywhere else before. It will be powered 100% through renewable energy, supported by the largest battery storage facility in the world today. This will help the destination prevent nearly half a million tons of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere each year, equivalent to taking 110,000 cars off the roads.
Times are Changing
There is a reason this issue remains a priority. It’s because the stakes have never been higher. The climate crisis has become the climate emergency, and ours could be the final generation to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Now is the time for tourism to move from being part of the problem to leading the solution. Taking a regenerative approach to development and to tourism can be our industry’s route to securing a greener future for the benefit of everyone. Destinations that fail to recognise this and refuse to improve their relationship with the environment may find themselves quickly left behind, losing out on reputation, revenue and ultimately guests. Unfortunately, the consequences could be much worse than that.