The Swedish city of Gothenburg has topped the Global Destination Sustainability (GDS) Index for a seventh time.
The benchmarking and improvement programme is now in its eighth year and the 2023 results offer insights into the trends and the progress of global destinations' commitment to transforming their social, environmental, supplier and destination management offerings.
One hundred destinations participated, and 42 new destinations from 11 countries joined for the first time.
Gothenburg scored 94.64%, demonstrating excellence across all criteria.
Oslo went up from tenth place to second because of its improved strategy and implementation. Copenhagen remained at third place, and Helsinki came in at fourth, up from 12th in 2022. Eight of the top ten cities are in Nordic countries, up from seven in 2022.
Growth in other regions
Of the top 40, 17 cities were from Western Europe, one city from North America (Montreal) and seven cities from Asia Pacific. Singapore jumped 18 places to 17th position.
The big jump in new destinations was propelled by the great work of VisitBritain and Destination Canada which respectively saw 12 new English and 20 new Canadian destinations join.
Observed trends include:
1. Increasing integration with climate strategies
85% of all cities have a climate mitigation and adaptation strategy.
2. Wider stakeholder engagement
55% of new destinations are engaging stakeholders in their strategies, whereas 95% of returning destinations already do.
3. Growing third-party certification
Venues are leading the change. In Nordic destinations, 84% of venues are certified, followed by 71% in Asia Pacific, 46% in Western Europe, and 14% in Eastern Europe.
4. Formalising social impact strategies
44% of cities are facilitating partnerships to help clients generate a long-term, positive impact and legacy in the destination.
5. Increasing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
75% of cities in the top 40 have DEI policies and initiatives.
6. Greater storytelling
53% of destinations are talking about their sustainability efforts and strategies via their websites. Advanced destinations are getting better at telling stories that engage and move audiences.
The index data offer valuable insights into the sustainability performance of cities of varied sizes. Large cities comprise 37% of the index, and score the highest across all four categories, consistently.
"The evolution and results of the GDS-Index unequivocally demonstrate that destination management organisations and national tourism organisations can and do drive accelerated economic, social, and environmental transformation within their tourism and events ecosystems. With this compelling evidence, we hold the key to an optimistic future for travel and events. By amplifying our regenerative action plans and scaling them with urgency, we pave the way for meaningful change and progress," said Guy Bigwood, CEO, GDS-Movement.
For an in-depth look at the GDS-Index Results, read the report, The Ripple Effect and find the full results here
Photo: Award winners at the GDS Awards