Egypt’s tourism minister has given Sharm El Sheikh hotels and tourist establishments a six-month deadline to obtain green certification as the country prepares to host the Cop27 climate summit in November.
All hotels and tourist establishments in the Red Sea resort are required to be certified by one of the authorised local or international authorities ensuring that they operate using green practices in accordance with the concept of sustainable tourism, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El Anany said this week.
The decision comes within the framework of preparations for Egypt’s hosting of Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh and in light of efforts to make the Egyptian tourism sector more environmentally friendly, the ministry said.
Only 24 out of the 137 hotels in Sharm El Sheikh currently have an environmental management system in place and the Green Star Hotel national label, said Alaa Akel, chairman of the Egyptian Red Sea Hotels Association and chief executive of the Jaz Hotel Group.
“There is no doubt that this is the path we need to take. Sustainability is not a luxury, it’s mandatory,” Mr Akel told The National.
Egypt was officially announced as the host of the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Cop27) at last year's event, which took place in Glasgow in November.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement, signed by nearly 200 countries including Egypt, was adopted at Cop21 in 2015. Its overall aim is to reduce the rate of global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels.
Each party to the Paris Agreement is required to establish a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) — a climate action plan, updated every five years, to cut carbon dioxide emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
Egypt submitted its first NDC in June 2017 and has established sustainable development strategies through its 2030 Vision.
The Green Star Hotel is a national green certification and capacity-building programme managed by the Egyptian Hotel Association with the support of Egypt’s tourism ministry.
The national standard is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which provides international criteria for sustainable travel and tourism. Other labels recognised by the organisation include Earth Check, Travelife and Green Key Global.
Mr Akel said there are different levels of Green Star Hotel certification, with the highest rating at five stars. Seven out of the 24 green star hotels in Sharm El Sheikh have a five-star rating.
Criteria include about 180 points that include smaller operational procedures as well as reducing one-time plastic use, recycling, using solar heaters, switching to energy-efficient air-conditioning units and preserving marine life.
“The investments to reach the baseline are minor and do not require significant cost,” Mr Akel said. “It’s doable. It’s just a matter of practice.”
Tourism in Sharm El Sheikh has suffered over the past decade, particularly after a Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in 2015 and flights were halted for six years.
Mr Akel said it is now time to increase investments in sustainability.
“There is a right time for everything. Egypt’s tourism industry has experienced difficult times — the 2011 revolution, ups and downs, the Russian plane accident, then Covid, many things. These were all challenges for the hotels over the past 10 years,” he said.
The green hotels initiative will “sustain tourism for the future”, he concluded.