Belfast has made the Top 20 official list of sustainable destinations in the world, securing a prominent place on the international stage as a leading city tourism destination committed to sustainable development and growth.
This international ranking was confirmed by the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), the world’s largest sustainability performance improvement and benchmarking programme for destinations which revealed its Top 20 list of sustainable cities at a major event in Paris yesterday.
Other leading sustainable Top 20 cities for 2021 include Gothenburg, Zurich, Sydney, Helsinki, Cork, Brussels and Glasgow.
With a score this year of 70.7 percent, Belfast has climbed up the rankings to number 19 among a total of 73 global destinations. Demonstrating a focus to build back better and bring sustainability to the forefront of tourism growth and development.
The GDS Index evaluated Belfast’s on four key areas: environmental strategy and infrastructure, social sustainability performance, industry supplier support and the strategy and initiatives of the city’s destination marketing and management organisation (DMMO) Visit Belfast.
Belfast launched its Resilience Strategy – the city’s first climate plan – in December 2020, setting out 30 transformational programmes to transition the Belfast City Region to an inclusive, zero-emissions, climate-resilient economy within a generation. Belfast joined the GDS Index in 2020; and after ranking 47th, the city has worked collaboratively to develop an ambitious plan to accelerate performance and putting sustainability at the heart of its tourism recovery and growth plans.
Welcoming the news, Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Kate Nicholl, said:
"I’m really pleased that Belfast has been recognised by the GDS-Index for its efforts in driving its environmental and sustainability credentials and placing sustainable tourism at the heart of city development.
Tourism plays an important role in enriching the culture and vibrancy of our city and a move towards building a more sustainable tourism destination is vital in future-proofing Belfast for generations to come. Being placed in the top 20 sustainable destinations elevates our city on the global stage and clearly sets out our qualities as an appealing, attractive, responsible tourism destination.
“The notable jump in our performance is testament to the continued collaborative work by Council, Visit Belfast and city partners to drive Belfast towards sustainable and inclusive growth. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this happen.”
Launched in February, Visit Belfast’s three-year recovery plan, Rebuilding City Tourism 2021-24, set out a new direction of travel for tourism promotion. The plans focus on supporting sustainable tourism recovery while moving to a greener and more inclusive tourism model. The plan also forces a rethink about what a new and successful tourism destination looks like.
Visit Belfast Chief Executive, Gerry Lennon said:
This is hugely positive news for our city – to be ranked alongside some of the most pioneering cities in the world for sustainability is a significant achievement. It’s critically important that we see Belfast transition to a sustainable destination as quickly as possible, so I’m extremely proud of the contribution and work in the last year to see Belfast propelled into the Top 20 list of top sustainable destinations globally.
"Since launching our ambitious sustainability plan with Belfast City Council, we have been focused on attracting visitors to the city, generating economic benefit and inclusive growth and enabling Belfast to become a more sustainable place to visit, meet and live.
"Working with our industry partners, we are placing sustainability at the centre of everything we do, adopting responsible and sustainable tourism practices to ensure Belfast remains relevant in a constantly competitive market place; one where consumers are more culturally and environmentally aware. These partnership efforts will be crucial as we work to deliver on our commitments outlined in our tourism recovery plan.
It’s incredibly rewarding to see that our collective efforts in this area have been recognised globally by the GDS Movement. We must thank our funders Belfast City Council and Tourism Northern Ireland, as well as our hospitality and tourism industry partners and the entire Visit Belfast team for their dedicated focus as we #buildbackbetter.”
Earlier this year, Visit Belfast also launched the largest-ever green tourism city partnership at a dedicated ‘Sustainable Belfast’ event.
The ‘Green Tourism’ initiative aims to bolster Belfast’s sustainability credentials and enhance the competitiveness of its tourism and hospitality sector by awarding an independent, third party certification to boost sustainable business.
Designed to help individual tourism businesses contribute to improving the environment, address climate change and lift the local economy, the Green Tourism initiative, the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world, encourages eligible local businesses to boost their environmental credentials and be rewarded for their efforts through an international award.
Funded by Belfast City Council and delivered by Visit Belfast, the initiative has already increased Belfast Green Tourism members by 400% with the aim of creating 150 Green Tourism certified businesses across Belfast city in 2022.
Visit Belfast was also awarded a bronze accreditation from Green Tourism in June this year in recognition of its focus on developing sustainable practices within the organisation and driving the city’s tourism ambitions to deliver key sustainable tourism initiatives. In addition to launching a new sustainability policy, Visit Belfast has developed a new business events sustainability framework for event organisers to encourage green tourism throughout the events and conferencing sector. Through this initiative, Visit Belfast aims to increase the number of inbound business events delivered against dedicated sustainability and legacy targets to 80% by 2025.