Concern over the effects of climate change is growing across the globe, and attractions are busy working towards sustainability. Last year, Sir David Attenborough told BBC News that “the moment of crisis has come” in tackling climate change.
Now, he has also issued a bleak warning: “It’s already too late.”
Speaking to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session on climate, Attenborough said: “Please make no mistake – climate change is the biggest threat to security that modern humans have ever faced.”
Furthermore, the UN Development Programme recently revealed the results of the People’s Climate Vote survey, with participants demanding sustainability. Post-COVID, the green agenda will be increasingly important to consumers. The visitor attractions industry is responding by creating green agendas, such as reducing plastic, going solar or offering vegan F&B.
So here is our list of eleven visitor attractions that are leading the way in terms of sustainability.
1 Eden Project International
The Eden Project first opened in 2001, and swiftly became the most popular attraction in Cornwall. Eden Project International was created in 2017 to take the eco-tourism attraction to China, Australia, New Zealand, and Costa Rica.
Eden Project International aims to take its environmental message across the globe. The new destinations focus on environmental issues, such as water, food, biodiversity and soil. The company is now working on a feasibility study for a proposed project in Dundee, known as Eden Project Scotland.
Elsewhere, Eden Project Foyle is a riverside cultural and environmental tourist attraction launching in Derry, Northern Ireland in 2023. It will feature roof gardens and walled gardens, as well as sunken labyrinths, nature-based play, and treetop walkways. There will also be weaving pathways, floating boardwalks, rope bridges, slides and zip wires.
Eden Project North is an immersive attraction opening in Morecambe, England in spring 2023. The seaside resort will focus on health and wellbeing for people and the environment. It will boast reimagined lidos, gardens, performance spaces, and observatories.
The Eden Project and Alcoa are also developing a new AU$150m (£81.5m) eco-tourism attraction within Alcoa’s former coal mine in Anglesea, Victoria, Australia. The coal mine will become an immersive destination celebrating the local ecology and sustainability.
David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International, said the project “could bring environmental, social and economic regeneration to Anglesea”. He added: “This concept will be a global exemplar of sustainability and environmental excellence.”
2 PortAventura World
PortAventura World has made the entire resort carbon neutral, becoming a benchmark for sustainable tourism in Europe. PortAventura is aiming to minimise its environmental footprint, and previously opened the first zero-emission hotel, Colorado Creek.
PortAventura World is now offsetting 100 percent of the direct emissions generated. As part of its sustainable goals, PortAventura World has eliminated plastics. It is also set to install a large solar energy plant to supply energy to the whole resort.
The plant will be the largest self-consumption photovoltaic plant in a European resort with an installed capacity of 7.5 MWp. It will generate one-third of the electricity used at the resort and stop 4,000 tonnes of CO2 every year from being emitted. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be absorbed by 930,000 trees.
“The corporate responsibility of PortAventura World is based on a responsible leadership that always balances economic social and environmental objectives,” said Fernando Aldecoa, general manager of PortAventura World.
3 Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is leading the way for sustainable attractions, with a goal to become carbon negative by 2025. Additional green targets include having 50 percent of visitors arriving in a carbon-friendly way by 2025 and reducing the carbon footprint of its buildings by 25 percent.
“We are carbon zero at the tier one level, generating more energy than we consume, having committed to generating green energy three years ago,” said CEO of Blenheim Palace, Dominic Hare. “We’re also just about to apply for planning consent for a solar farm. This will take us from generating 25 percent of what we use today, to generating all of it, plus a surplus.”
Hare added: “We have nearly a million visitors a year, and 95 percent of those come by car. The vast majority are couples, so even as car use goes, it’s not efficient. We want to find a way to out-generate even that kind of consumption.”
Blenheim previously launched a promotion that gave visitors 50 percent off if they came by bus, train or bicycle. Hare and his team are also consulting on two communities of eco-friendly housing in Woodstock, Oxfordshire.
4 Expo 2020 Dubai
Earlier this year, Expo 2020 Dubai premiered Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion. The pavilion, designed by Grimshaw Architects, is net zero for energy and water. It includes a mini forest of ‘energy trees’ and 1,055 photovoltaic panels on the roof.
Terra will explore the harmful impact that our choices have on the environment, hopefully inspiring visitors to make sustainable changes. The pavilion explores ecology, sustainable technologies and design via immersive experiences.
“We want to make sure we do everything possible to ensure that our visitors become agents of change,” said John Bull, director of Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion. “We genuinely aspire to change people.”
Bull confirmed that Terra will be “an ongoing project” after Expo 2020 Dubai, which is also committed to sustainability, as well as opportunity and mobility. “Throughout the landscape, we have eighteen energy trees. They are structures the size of a tree, covered in photovoltaic cells. They act like flowers.
“The head of the ‘tree’ tracks the sun over the course of the day,” said Bull. “A unique feature of the trees is their bifacial solar panels. These capture both direct sunlight and reflected sunlight off the ground.”
Qiddiya is a giga-project in Saudi Arabia, set to be the world’s largest entertainment city. There will be theme parks, water parks, retail, an aquatic centre and F&B. However, sustainability is another key element in the development of Qiddiya.
Kareem Shamma, chief development officer of Qiddiya Investment Company (QIC), told Construction Week: “This involves curbing all types of pollution and adopting efficient waste management, including reducing, reusing, and recycling.”
Shamma said QIC will “preserve the current level of biodiversity”. Qiddiya will protect and rehabilitate the country’s natural reserves, conserve water sources, enhance biodiversity, create microclimates and efficiently manage waste.
“Saudi is getting more and more involved in sustainable development and we want to have a contribution,” said Qiddiya CEO, Philippe Gas. “Waste management, water consumption and biodiversity are the top three that we will focus on. More and more, you want to have a lesser carbon footprint, you want whatever you develop to be sustainable.”
“Qiddiya enthusiastically embraces the sustainability goals set out in Saudi Vision 2030,” Don Potts, president of parks and attractions at Qiddiya, told blooloop. “Those initiatives include everything from reducing all types of pollution to protecting the Kingdom’s natural reserves. We have a beautiful site, and we are enhancing that site, not disrupting it.”
“We’re also promoting technologies for the optimum use of water resources. So we’re focused on [sustainability] in a big way, from waste management and water to the microclimate,” said Potts.
6 Majid Al Futtaim
Majid Al Futtaim, which owns VOX Cinemas and the Mall of the Emirates, recently revealed its commitment to sustainable business and a circular economy. The circular economy is based on three major principles – getting rid of waste and pollution, keeping materials and products in use, and regenerating natural systems.
“Our climate is changing and so is our way of business,” said Ibrahim Al-Zu’bi, chief sustainability officer at Majid Al Futtaim. “Circular economy makes business sense. But most importantly, it is becoming crucial to ensuring our world can adapt to emerging climate risks. Our climate is changing and so is our way of business.”
The group already has some circular initiatives in place, including promoting recycling through reverse vending machines at VOX Cinemas. It also hopes to have 50 percent less food waste by 2030 and it will eliminate single-use plastics by 2025.
“At Majid Al Futtaim we realise that embracing more circular business models is too good an opportunity to let go to waste,” says the document ‘Unlocking Value: Majid Al Futtaim’s Circular Economy Strategy’.
Unlocking Value outlines the five pillars of Majid Al Futtaim’s sustainable strategy, including resource mapping, maximising value, closed-loop supplies, circular lifestyles, and collaborate to accelerate.
7 The London Resort
The London Resort aims to be one of the most sustainable destinations in the world when it opens in 2024. It will house an operationally carbon neutral theme park, deliver a net biodiversity gain, and develop a green network of amenities and parkland. These include areas of environmental enhancement and wildlife habitat creation.
“We have always said our ambition is to build much more than just a theme park. It will be a beacon of world-class entertainment and experiences within a world-leading sustainable environment,” said PY Gerbeau, CEO of London Resort Company Holdings.
The project will encourage the use of sustainable transport, with Gerbeau saying: “We are going to be halfway to being carbon neutral in the UK by the time we open. Do we have zero cars? No, because people won’t believe it, but we have the ambition.”
“As well as maximising new, immersive and interactive technologies, our aim is also to be one of the most sustainable major theme parks in the world, pursuing an operational net zero emissions goal,” said Gerbeau.
“Sustainability is at the core of our vision and we continue to explore new and innovative ways of integrating sustainable and low-carbon principles into every area of design and operation of the resort.”
8 The Red Sea Project
The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) is building the world’s most sustainable luxury tourist destination, The Red Sea Project. The first phase is scheduled to open in 2022. “We’re taking a sustainable approach to development,” said John Pagano, CEO of TRSDC.
“From project planning and the materials we use in construction, through to destination and tourism management. In fact, the initiatives we’re putting in place across the project align with the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
TRSDC aims to preserve the environment by making a 30 percent net improvement to the area’s conservation value. “We’re looking at everything from committing to achieve carbon neutrality to managing visitor numbers to avoid over-tourism,” said Pagano.
Green initiatives are at the heart of the Red Sea Project. “We’re finding new ways to reduce the environmental impact of running the destination. And we have the ultimate goal of actively enhancing it,” he added.
The Red Sea Project will neutralise its carbon emissions and run on 100 percent renewable energy. In addition, there will be a ban on single-use plastics. TRSDC hopes to achieve Dark Sky accreditation at the site in Saudi Arabia.
TRSDC previously awarded a sustainable transport consultancy to Mott MacDonald. The focus will be on ‘clean mobility’ by using electric and hydrogen-powered boats, land vehicles and aircraft. The company recently launched the ‘Coral Bloom’ project, created by architects Foster + Partners.
9 The Walt Disney Company
The Walt Disney Company recently released a set of environmental goals for 2030 that focus on greenhouse gas emissions, water, waste, materials and sustainable design. Disney plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions for direct operations and will invest in low carbon fuel innovation.
The company will also invest in natural climate solutions, purchase or produce 100 percent zero-carbon electricity for all direct operations, and achieve zero landfill waste at all Disney-owned and operated parks and resorts.
“Disney has shown a strong commitment to the environment throughout its history and we’re excited to continue building on that legacy with new, ambitious environmental goals for 2030,” said Bob Chapek, CEO of the Walt Disney Co.
Disneyland Paris is building one of the largest solar canopy energy projects in Europe, while a solar farm provides Walt Disney World with more renewable energy. Uswitch revealed that Magic Kingdom is the world’s most eco-friendly tourist attraction.
The Walt Disney Co has eliminated single-use plastic straws and stirrers and is shifting to refillable in-room amenities. Disney is also introducing vegan, plant-based options to all dining locations at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort.
10 Floriade Expo 2022
Floriade Expo 2022, a Dutch horticultural exposition, is on track to take place in Almere, Netherlands. The event next year will be the seventh instalment and the theme is ‘Growing Green Cities’. Floriade is working with national and international organisations to offer solutions for sustainable and liveable cities.
Approximately 2 million guests are expected to attend Floriade Expo 2022, which is set to run from April 14 to October 9, 2022. The subthemes of Floriade are ‘Feeding the City’, ‘Healthying the City’, ‘Greening the City’ and ‘Energising the City’.
accesso, a leading technology provider, was chosen to provide ticketing and distribution solutions for Floriade. The company will implement its accesso Passport system, and also introduce ticket distribution technology to connect the event with global customers.
11 THE LINE at NEOM
THE LINE at NEOM is a carbon zero city covering 105 miles in Saudi Arabia. The belt of hyper-connected communities – without cars or streets – will be powered by 100 percent clean energy.
HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? And why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting? We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.”
All essential services, such as schools, clinics, leisure facilities and green spaces, at THE LINE will be within walking distance. For longer journeys, residents will enjoy ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous vehicles.
NEOM, a $500bn futuristic mega-city, is billed as ‘the land of the future’ and will be 33 times the size of New York City. Overlooking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, NEOM will feature artificial clouds to produce rainfall and holographic teachers for classes.
greenloop – highlighting sustainabilty in visitor attractions
Blooloop’s new sustainability in visitor attractions conference, greenloop, will be held online from 20 – 21 April 2021. The event, which takes place during the same week as Earth Day 2021, will bring together a wide range of sustainable initiatives for the attractions industry.
The virtual conference will showcase the latest innovations, inspiring us all to be more sustainable in our operations. There will also be opportunities for networking and debate. In addition to this, the event will include sessions presented by sustainability trailblazers from across the industry.
- Guillaume Allaire – Director of International Affairs, Puy du Fou
- John Bull – Sustainability Pavilion Director, Expo 2020 Dubai
- Gaynor Coley – Chairman of the Board, The Wave & previously MD, Eden Project
- Emily Dow – Design Studio Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering
- Choni Fernandez Veciana – PortAventura Central Services Director: Purchasing, Logistics and Corporate Responsibility
- PY Gerbeau – CEO, The London Resort
- Dominic Hare – CEO, Blenheim Palace
- David Harland – CEO, Eden Project International
- Wayne Hitchings – Head of Sustainability, The Natural History Museum
- David Rosenberg – Vice President, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Lukas Scheub – Management representative for Public Affairs, Europa-Park