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Sultan bin Ahmed opens Sharjah Intl Travel & Tourism Forum

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, and Chairman of Sharjah Executive Council, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah inaugurated the 10th annual edition of the Sharjah International Travel & Tourism Forum (SITTF) on Wednesday in Expo Centre Sharjah, which was organised by the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), the forum’s discussions are centred around the theme ‘Sustainable Tourism: The Way to Improvement’.

The forum’s guest of honour,  Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, the UAE’s Minister of Economy, delivered a keynote address, highlighting the UAE’s significant achievements in shaping its tourism infrastructure and policies in line with global best practices in sustainability.

​He said: “The last amongst the 10 ‘Economic Principles of UAE’ announced by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, this month, which focuses on boosting the nation’s transport and logistics infrastructure, serves as a stimulus for national efforts to enhance sustainability in the tourism, travel, and aviation sectors. This principle aims to develop the world’s best logistical infrastructure, including ports, airports, and airlines.”
His Excellency emphasised that sustainability in the tourism sector is one of the most important factors for promoting its growth in the coming period, especially given the global environmental and social conditions. “From this perspective, the UAE has been keen on developing national strategies and initiatives to enhance the sustainability of the tourism and travel sectors and support the transition to a greener and more sustainable aviation industry, relying on low-carbon aviation fuel”, he further noted.
Al Marri further explained that the UAE Tourism Strategy 2031, which adopts a set of national targets to promote inbound travel and tourism to the UAE, is one of the most prominent initiatives. The plan includes attracting investments worth AED 100 billion, welcoming 40 million hotel guests, and increasing the contribution of the tourism sector to the national GDP to AED 450 billion by the next decade.
The Minister also highlighted that the tourism and travel sector’s contribution to the GDP exceeded 60% in 2022, reaching nearly AED 167 billion, while creating more than 89,000 new jobs in comparison to 2021. In 2023, hotels generated total revenues of AED 26 billion, reflecting a 24% growth compared to the same period last year. UAE hotels welcomed 16 million guests in the first seven months of 2023, with a growth rate of 15%, maintaining the country’s status among the top 12 tourist destinations in the world, chosen by more than 10 million tourists annually.

For his part, Khalid Jasim Al Midfa, SCTDA Chairman, spoke about sustainable tourism as one of the most important and impactful sectors in the global economy. He emphasised that it is the most resilient and fastest-recovering industry sector. Al Midfa pointed out that this sector is expected to contribute more than 11 percent of the global economy, exceeding USD 15 trillion by 2033.

Al Midfa noted that a report from a leading company indicated that travellers prefer options that prioritise the planet’s safety and favour brands offering sustainable choices, as reflected in the Allied Market Research report confirming that the value of the global sustainable tourism market reached around USD 3.3 trillion last year and forecasted at approximately USD 11.4 trillion by 2032.

Midfa said: “The UAE has shown great interest in sustainability. The country declared 2023 as the Year of Sustainability to highlight its rich heritage of sustainable practices and showcase its efforts to advance collective international action to address sustainability challenges and develop innovative solutions that benefit everyone. We draw inspiration from this experience and assert that the enduring development of sustainable practices in the tourism and travel sector is essential to strengthen its developmental role and to serve as a model for creativity in achieving harmony between current needs and the rights of future generations for a bright future.”

Dr. Nawal Al Hosany, Permanent Representative of UAE IRENA, Acting Assistant Undersecretary for Green Development and Climate Change at the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, said: “Our collective fight against climate change started back in the 60s and is going to continue. The UAE today is not leading climate change initiatives just because it has a choice to do so. The country has always chosen to be a leader when it comes to environmental protection and sustainable development, and we know that we’re going to continue that journey”.

While detailing UAE’s climate action journey and how it is seeking climate leadership in “an inclusive whole-of-nation approach” creating two platforms to accelerate the implementation of the climate agenda, she highlighted how UAE was the first country in the GCC to ratify the Paris Agreement. “We also kept updating our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) leading up to us hosting the COP 28. In the third review [of NDCs], we updated our reduction [of carbon emissions] target by 40%. And again, that is something very unique to the UAE. And that’s why on a monetary basis, we have decided to publish what we call the long term strategy for emissions.” she added.

Al Hosany also affirmed the UAE’s leadership in the waste management and recycling sector, highlighting Sharjah’s clear efforts in spearheading waste treatment initiatives with global distinction. “The UAE places great importance on the agriculture sector to achieve food security. It has succeeded in establishing numerous investments in this sector, aiming to reach 100% food security. Additionally, there is a focus on promoting urban agriculture”, she added.

At the end of the opening ceremony, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah, honoured sponsors and speakers and took part in a commemorative picture.
Following the opening ceremony, His Highness toured the exhibition and was briefed by Sharjah government entities on services and initiatives supporting the sustainable tourism sector, strengthening the emirate’s economy and status as a global tourism destination, and reflecting its heritage, identity, and history.
The 10th edition will deliberate sustainable tourism by addressing sustainability, best environmental practices, and strategies to mitigate environmental impacts. It also reveals these practices’ economic and social returns for local communities. The forum will delve into the latest trends and innovations in sustainable tourism, emphasising the role of technology in its development. The event will also focus on collaboration opportunities to achieve sustainability goals and highlight success stories from specialised entities in optimising energy and water consumption and reducing waste in tourism activities.

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