Some deserts bloom with flowers. Dubai’s desert blooms with outrageous tourism attractions.
With air-conditioned indoor ski slopes, lush golf courses, giant man-made islands shaped like palm trees, and plans to recreate the Seven Wonders of the World, Dubai wants to become the tourism center of the planet. And, as long as 240,000 barrels of oil a day keep pumping in the United Arab Emirates, only the sky is the limit for Dubai—actually, maybe not anymore, given they’ve nearly finished building the world’s tallest tower.
But can it possibly be sustainable? Just one of Dubai’s golf courses requires a million gallons of desalinated water a day to keep the grass green under a scorching sun. Now consider that it takes more than a gallon of crude oil to make one gallon of desalinated water. That oil will eventually run out. Ironically, Dubai may still become the greatest tourism destination in the world: a place where future tourists marvel at the stunning archeological remains of a highly advanced urban civilization that mastered everything except one fundamental reality—alternative energy.
I’ve just returned from Dubai where I attended the Global Travel and Tourism Summit, a gathering of the top tourism industry leaders. It’s perhaps not surprising that the conference’s discussion turned to sustainable tourism.
At one point, Dubai’s business leaders announced new green building standards that will be required for all new developments. To help address global warming concerns, Dubailand, a tourism development venture encompassing more than 60,000 guest rooms in 51 hotels on the world’s longest stretch of shopping space, will be serviced by more than 40 miles of monorail line to promote public transport over cars. How will this all be powered? Oil-generated electricity.
For a destination like Dubai, even this is progress. At least sustainable tourism is now a term being heard in Dubai’s corporate board rooms.
- Nat Geo Expeditions