Megan Gell
Jun 12, 2019

Australia leads APAC rankings: Global Destination Sustainability Index

A handy guide for the events industry in a 'new era of sustainability'.

Goyang in South Korea saw a 59% jump in performance
Goyang in South Korea saw a 59% jump in performance

The Global Destination Sustainability Index’s (GDS-Index) 2019 whitepaper highlights trends and strategies undertaken by 47 leading cities to become regenerative hubs for economic, social and environmental development – and destinations of choice for meetings, events and business tourism.

The paper includes the 2018 rankings as well as a comprehensive overview of what is required for destinations to become more sustainable, illustrated by case studies, data analysis and tried-and-tested tips. Its mission is to inspire and enable destinations to become more sustainable places to visit, meet and thrive in.

The GDS-Index is a collaborative partnership between ICCA, IMEX, ECM and MCI Group. It is a destination-level programme that measures, benchmarks and improves the sustainability strategy and performance of participating destinations.

“As an industry we need to step up, scale up and speed up our sustainability efforts,” said MCI Group CEO Sébastien Tondeur. “Destinations are key to the transformation of our industry, and the GDS-Index is an important catalyst helping them transform.”

Representing Asia-Pacific in this year’s GDS-Index are Bangkok, Kyoto, Sapporo, Goyang, Melbourne and Sydney. GDS-Index managing director Guy Bigwood expects more Asia-Pacific cities to participate in the next round as the index steps up its regional efforts.

Petra Stusek, ECM president, said: “Destination management organisations (DMOs) are evolving into destination stewards and changemakers. They are progressively taking a bigger role in accelerating their city’s sustainable development plan."

Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, said: “the economic, social and environmental significance of the events industry is massive. We could influence safe and fair working conditions for 26 million jobs, direct US$1.5 trillion towards more responsible supply chains, and inspire 1.5 billion participants to action. The next couple of years represent a serous tipping point for us all – and for the generations to come.”

According to managing director of the GDS Index Guy Bigwood, the index is a helpful resource for planners looking to support sustainable destinations. “[It] provides a database of global destinations that event organisers can use to assess event destinations and gain information that helps them to make their events and meetings more sustainable and impactful. It saves time and money," he said.

Key findings

The 2019 whitepaper defines five converging mega trends that present opportunities for destinations and the event industry to improve their performance: climate breakdown, ecocide, demographic shifts, social change and digitalisation.

It also highlights four fundamental building blocks for DMOs to become sustainable destination stewards and changemakers: take the lead, integrate sustainability into core business strategy, develop a masterplan, and collaborate, educate and co-innovate. This is based around eight tactics:

• Integrate the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals
• Footprint and set science-based reduction targets
• Engage strategically with stakeholders
• Champion certification
• Promote the food revolution
• Boost demand
• Create an engaging story
• Report impacts and actions

The report breaks down each of the five major trends, the building blocks and core tactics with helpful destination examples already in action.

Asia-Pacific performance

Though Asia is some 20% behind the top 10 average, on a regional breakdown it places second only to the Nordics. Most Asia-Pacific destinations have improved, and Goyang in South Korea has seen a 59% jump in performance.

The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau’s (TCEB) sustainability masterplan is highlighted as a case study in the whitepaper, and Bigwood says Sydney’s sustainability destination partnership is “a world-class example of stakeholder collaboration”.

“The Australia cities are really stepping up in terms of action and performance. Both Melbourne and Sydney are now top ten global performers,” he adds. “In Asia – Bangkok is leading the way forward and are best performers. TCEB are showing real leadership in terms of programmes to reduce food waste, increased demand for sustainable events, increased certification and raising awareness.”

The GDS-Index’s third whitepaper was released at the European Cities Marketing Conference held in Ljubljana from June 5 to 8. To download the whitepaper, click here.

The 2019 GDS-Index benchmarking period is now open for existing and new destinations until September 5, 2019. For more information or to join the GDS-Index please contact Guy Bigwood at [email protected].


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