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Scandinavia, Australia Dominate 2019 Global Destination Sustainability Index

The GDS-Index has released its 2019 sustainability ranking of 50 global business tourism and events destinations. Increasingly, the Index is being used on a political level to allow local governments to evaluate their progress in sustainability.

The Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) is the leading sustainability benchmarking and improvement programme for business tourism and events destinations around the world. It serves as a collaborative and competitive platform for Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) that promotes the sustainable growth of destinations, regions and countries through knowledge-sharing, capacity-building, strategy development and certification. Increasingly, the Index is being used on a political level to allow local governments to evaluate their progress in sustainability.

In this fourth year of benchmarking, the GDS-Index developed and aligned a more demanding set of criteria with other significant stakeholders including the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the Social Progress Imperative and the Events Industry Council. With the help of an external technical advisory board, this process has brought transparency, rigour and additional value to the GDS-Index, further embedding its use in the Meetings, Events and Tourism sectors.

GDS-Index 2019 results

The GDS-Index benchmarks performance across four key areas: city’s environmental strategy and infrastructure; city’s social sustainability performance; industry supplier support; and the DMO’s strategy and initiatives.

Gothenburg, Sweden topped the list of cities in the GDS-Index for the fourth year running. With a score of 89.64 out of a possible 100 points, and with a 7 percent improvement from last year, Gothenburg received the 2019 GDS-Index Leadership Award.

“The GDS-Index has been a powerful lever in our sustainability work; it has helped us to improve performance and inspire others to become more sustainable,” shared Annika Hallman, Director at Gothenburg Convention Bureau. “We have lectured and received study visits from other cities and used our top position to drive the sustainable development of the global meeting industry, as well as strengthening Gothenburg's profile as a leading congress and convention destination.”

The 2019 GDS-Index results demonstrate that DMOs around the world are acting on sustainability, with a 29 percent increase in overall performance from 2018. New destinations that advanced into the top 10 included Aalborg, Sweden and Dublin, Ireland; with significant jumps in performance for Glasgow, Sydney and Zurich. See the Index for more information on the winners.

2019 GDS-Index Awards

The 2019 GDS-Index Awards were announced during the closing ceremony of the recent International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Congress in Houston, to honor the sustainability performance, innovation and improvement of the destinations.

ICCA President James Rees commented “As the effects of climate change become evident and social pressure for action increases, the meetings and events industry must continue to create positive economic impact for destinations, but also help influence the social and environmental policies that are affected by our business. Destination Management Organisations are a key catalyst and enabler of a sustainable visitor economy, and I am delighted to see the GDS-Index evolving and playing a vital role in accelerating the creation of sustainable destinations.”

The judging panel, made up of six industry experts, selected Sydney to win the GDS-Index Innovation Award for its outstanding “Sustainable Destination Partnership” — a multi-stakeholder collaboration that has resulted in the environmental footprinting of the Sydney hospitality sector, then the co-creation of a pioneering strategy to achieve a 70 percent reduction in carbon emissions and divert 90 percent of the city’s waste by 2030. The jury was also impressed by the joint second place projects, presented by Wonderful Copenhagen for its Stakeholder Engagement programme and the Green Supply Chains initiative of Ljubljana (Slovenia) Tourism.

For the first time, the GDS-Index Best Improver Award was presented to a region, with the honours being installed on the Meet in Ireland Partnership representing Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Kerry. They joined the GDS-Index in 2018 with a vision to collaborate and improve destination sustainability as a region. Aalborg and Ljubljana also made major jumps in performance and ranking.

“We invest in the sustainable development of tourism across the country to ensure that communities nationwide can benefit from the social and economic impact tourism brings to Ireland,” said Paul Mockler, Head of Commercial Development at Fáilte Ireland. “We are delighted to see our investment in sustainable practices across our conventions bureaux in Dublin and the regions being recognised with this special merit award. We are at that start of our journey to become recognised as a world-leading sustainable destination and look forward to further exciting developments in the coming months.”

The GDS-Index witnessed many other examples of sustainability leadership and best practice from multiple destinations including; Copenhagen, Malmö, Lausanne-Montreux and Glasgow (strategy); Ireland and Flanders (region programs); Brisbane and Sydney (collaboration and partnerships); Monaco, Lyon and Helsinki (Marketing & Comms); and Gothenburg (Reporting).

“This year's results provide positive signs of a global shift in how Destination Management Organisations integrate sustainability into their strategy, value proposal, stewardship and reporting activities,” said Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of the GDS-Index. “The results also highlight the need for DMOs to get much better at developing an inspiring vision of change, engaging their stakeholders and managing resources to implement and measure social impact for their communities and visitors.”