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The Future of Tourism: How Compatible is Sustainable Tourism and Luxury Travel?


In the realm of luxury tourism, where opulence and exceptional experiences are synonymous, a new era of consciousness is dawning.


The pursuit of sustainable travel has become a driving force, with travellers, brands, and marketers acknowledging the imperative to preserve our planet while indulging in the finer things in life.


The Consumer's Desire for Sustainability


According to Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2021, 76% of global travellers say that they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months, which is a 16% increase over the company's 2021 data and a 5% increase over the company's 2022 data.


81% of travellers want to stay in a sustainable accommodation in the upcoming year, which is a notable increase from 62% in 2016 and 74% in 2020, just prior to the pandemic.


How the Industry is Responding


Luxury travel has the potential to affect the cultural heritage and ecosystems of destinations much more than other forms of tourism due to its high consumption of resources.


In 2023, the industry has stepped up to the challenge. From boutique hotels that support local communities to private jet companies with carbon offset programs, luxury travel groups are incorporating sustainable practices into their operations and offerings.



For example, the Brando in French Polynesia is a luxury resort that runs on solar power, and Soneva Fushi in the Maldives uses reverse osmosis to produce freshwater, reducing its reliance on plastic bottles.


One region in particular is embracing the change and that is the tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).


Luxury sustainable travel in the Middle East


Middle Eastern luxury travel has been increasingly focused on sustainability, with affluent travelers showing a growing preference for sustainable luxury hotel stays.


Middle Eastern luxury travel, particularly the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is noticing a huge boom in sustainable luxury travel.



YouGov’s Global Travel and Tourism Whitepaper 2023 reveals that 61% of UAE residents are ready to pay extra for environmentally friendly, sustainable tourism experiences.


Over the past three years, luxury green accommodations have seen a 10% increase in consumer preference, with sustainable luxury hotel stays among affluent travelers growing by 50%.


Valuing authenticity in travel


In addition to the rising emphasis on sustainable travel, the quest for authentic experiences is also becoming more popular in the Middle East.


Post-pandemic, 51% of high-income travelers are searching for genuine and impactful experiences, with 27% ready to pay more for private, secluded accommodations.


The Middle East has successfully built an international reputation for luxury tourism, with regional consumers appreciating unique, unforgettable, and eco-conscious experiences.


Localization as an Approach to Sustainability


Luxury tourism and travel has allowed the world to connect in ways than never before imagined. Even more so, the impact of a globalized supply trade has allowed for cheap and efficient sale and share of goods internationally.


However, many leaders in the industry believe that localization is the key to sustainability.


We choose to use locally produced commodities because importing products adds a lot to the expense of sustainability.

Amir Golbarg, Senior VP of Operations of Middle East & Africa at Minor Hotels, commented about the Anantara brand of Minor Hotels' approach to sustainable luxury, stating that, "Globalization opened the doors to the world, but I think localization is now equally crucial. We choose to use locally produced commodities because importing products adds a lot to the expense of sustainability."


"It all comes down to how you're helping the areas where you do business. We must change our attention from short-term expenses to long-term benefits," he added further.


Localization from the Consumer's Perspective


Increasingly, luxury travelers want to spend more time connecting to the places that they visit. Exclusivity and authenticity is a rising trend for Hight Net Worth (HNI) individuals.


So catering to a localized experience is not only beneficial in terms of sustainability but also from a customer experience perspective.


The Importance of an Active Voice


Today, many luxury consumers also want to be involved with brands and have an active voice.


Now, luxury tourism and branding are 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 one of them.


Incorporating practices into operations which reduce the impact on the environment and socially are key to maintaining a strong consumer relationship and sustainability goals.


Conclusion


Sustainable luxury travel is a new era in tourism that offers unique experiences while promoting responsible travel practices. Many luxury businesses, and in particular, regions in the Middle East and North Africa have started adapting to this growing demand for long term sustainability. By incorporating sustainability into their operations, luxury travel groups show that high-end travel and environmental and social responsibility can go hand in hand.


If you are interested in learning more about luxury marketing research and emerging trends in the luxury sector, check out our articles:


If you are interested in learning about understanding and garnering insights and trends for your business, check out our Research the Affluent Luxury Tracker (RTALT), a continuous database and powerful tool in understanding luxury consumer ingishts.






2. Harshan, A. (2023, May 12). Go green with gbo: Sustainable luxury travel becomes New Buzz in Tourism Sector. Global Business Outlook.

3. Stefi. (2023, June 14). Booking.com 2023 Sustainable Travel Report. GSTC.



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