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Go Green with GBO: Sustainable luxury travel becomes new buzz in tourism sector

Sustainable tourism has gained popularity among travellers who are becoming increasingly aware of their travels' environmental and social consequences

Luxury travel groups are synonymous with high-end experiences that cater to discerning customers. Luxury travel offers unparalleled comfort and exclusivity, from five-star hotels to private jets. However, the recent trend in the industry has been a shift towards sustainability, and luxury travel groups are no exception.

The trend refers to practices that consider tourism’s environmental, economic, and socio-cultural impact on local communities and environments. Sustainable tourism has gained popularity among travellers who are becoming increasingly aware of their travels’ environmental and social consequences.

For luxury travel groups, sustainability is more important than ever. Their clientele has high expectations, when it comes to the environmental and social responsibilities of their choices, and any negative impact on local communities and environments can have a disastrous effect on a luxury brand’s reputation.

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.

Coming into 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.

The tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is embracing sustainable travel. However, the region’s luxury tourism industry should emphasize long-term benefits from decarbonization, waste reduction, and community projects more than price.

Experts gave that evaluation during their presentations on the first day of Dubai’s 2023 Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

‘Sustainable Luxury: At What Cost?’ offered a variety of perspectives on how luxury tourism is advancing sustainable tourism in the Middle East.

Nadia Ibrahim, a member of the UN Global Compact Board of Directors, Amir Golbarg, Senior Vice President of Operations – Middle East & Africa at Minor Hotels; William Harley-Fleming, Vice President of Operations for JA The Resort and Indian Ocean; and Candice D’Cruz, VP Luxury Brands at Marriott International participated in the panel discussion, which Joe Mortimer, Editor-at-Large at Destinations of the World News, moderated.

Luxury and sustainability haven’t traditionally gone hand in hand, but this is changing as customer demand for sustainable products rises. The 21st century is all about a new generation of travellers who desire luxurious experiences without sacrificing sustainability.

According to Nadia, “This is why travel companies, hotels, airlines, and tourist destinations are considering how sustainability can be incorporated into their current services and how it can be used to draw in more customers.”

Golbarg commented about the Anantara brand of Minor Hotels’ approach to sustainable luxury, stating, “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.

D’Cruz, a representative of Marriott International, informed guests that consumers are increasingly considering these factors.

“We are noticing that wealthy tourists prefer to stay longer and truly engage with the areas they visit,” he informed the audience.

Additionally, they want to work with brands. It’s no longer one-way communication, so how transparent are you if it’s two-way? Finally, luxury customers are generally more demanding; they seek out businesses that share their beliefs, and sustainability is unquestionably one of those principles, according to D’Cruz.

JA Harley-Fleming of The Resort and Indian Ocean emphasized the need for proactive action and pointed out that there is a solid financial case for sustainability. He declared, “This is no ‘Plan B.'”

“We must now take this action; there is no longer an option. Your company’s reputation and costs could suffer if you don’t invest in sustainability. Ultimately, our industry does create jobs, so we must take action immediately,” he continued.

The Global Stage, Travel Tech Stage, and Sustainability Hub each hosted 20 presentations on the first day of ATM 2023.

The session on Technology: ‘The Enabler of Sustainable Travel, Financing for Sustainability, and Improving the Customer Experience Through AI’ were among the day’s other highlights. In the session on achieving net positive hospitality, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance also discussed the significance of safeguarding the areas, way of life, and communities in which hotels are based.

According to a survey by Virtuoso, 82% of travellers want to travel more sustainably in the future, demonstrating that sustainability is no longer a niche market but a growing trend. As luxury travel groups continue to prioritize sustainability, they offer travellers an opportunity to enjoy high-end travel experiences while minimizing their impact on the environment and supporting local communities.


Sustainable luxury travel is a new era in tourism that offers unique experiences while promoting responsible travel practices. By incorporating sustainability into their operations, luxury travel groups show that high-end travel and environmental and social responsibility can go hand in hand. As tourism continues to grow, it is up to us to ensure that our travels positively impact the destinations we visit.

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