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Pioneering destinations honoured in third round of Global Destination Sustainability Index awards

For the third year running, the winners of the GDS-Index awards were announced during the Closing Ceremony of the ICCA Congress, held in 2018 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The prestigious awards showcase the remarkable sustainability initiatives of convention bureaus and destination marketing organisations from across the globe, with the aim of sharing best practices to inspire the meeting and events industry.

The industry is increasingly beginning to recognise that even though tourism has an important impact on a country’s economy or destination marketing, it equally impacts the environment through its extensive use of resources needed to sustain the needs of its visitors and local communities. The Global Destination Sustainability Index works with convention bureaus and destination marketing organisations to address this issue, allowing them to maximise the positive impacts of tourism whilst balancing the negative impacts through a sustainable approach to strategy. The GDS-Index is also a very useful partner for associations who wish to understand to what extent a destination will be able to support them on their sustainability journey.

The Global Destination Sustainability Index gives out three awards each year to those destinations that go above and beyond to ensure that their practices incorporate a strong sustainability element. The winners of the GDS-Index awards in 2018 are:

Innovation Award: Copenhagen

The judging panel, made up of industry experts, have voted for Copenhagen this year to win the Innovation Award. Wonderful Copenhagen released a bold long-term strategy: “Tourism for good”. The ambition of this strategy is to “make tourism part of the solutions for a sustainable future, not a part of the problem. Tourism is not a goal in itself, it is a means to a sustainable end”. The plan looks at how the destination and their stakeholders can contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and sets targets and actions for the next three years.

The jury was also impressed by the runner-up projects presented by Helsinki and Sydney.

Leadership Award: Gothenburg

For the third year, Gothenburg Convention Bureau is still leading the way, setting the pace as well as sharing best practice in the industry. Goteborg & Co are pioneers and have inspired the Index with their unique integration of sustainability into their business practices.

Most Improved Destination Award: Goyang CVB

Goyang Convention Bureau, who joined the GDS-Index in 2017, has significantly improved their performance and made tremendous efforts in advancing their sustainability initiatives. Goyang improved their overall performance by 17% and their CVB performance by an impressive 40%, mainly by formalising a sustainability strategy for the destination, putting in place tools to measure performance, and building capacity through industry trainings.

Dublin’s performance must also to be mentioned: they were a very close runner-up with a 16% overall performance increase and 36% increase in CVB performance.

GDS-Index Director Mélanie Delaplanche said: “The GDS-Index is keeping the strong momentum going with more than 50 destinations benchmarked in 2018. With a growing number of US destinations joining the rankings, such as Washington DC and Monterey County joining the Index this year. We are delighted to welcome more destinations from very different places of the globe: Bangkok, Dubai, St Petersburg but also more European destinations: Monaco, Ljubljana; Ireland is showing a strong commitment to sustainability, with Shannon, Cork, Galway and Kerry now on the Index.”

ICCA Interim CEO Dennis Speet said: “As we encourage our members to put sustainability at their top of their agendas, we are proud to host the announcements of the Global Destination Sustainability Index awards at the ICCA Congress for the third time. I would like to wish congratulations to the three winners and the runners-up, who have displayed incredible ingenuity in improving their sustainability benchmark for the benefit of their destination’s ability to both attract more meetings and improve the quality of life for the local community.”

ICCA Congress Closing session highlights:


The 57th ICCA Congress took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 11-14 November 2018. This edition of the association’s flagship event has attracted 1,156 delegates from 79 countries, making it the biggest Congress held outside Europe.

For more information about the 57th ICCA Congress, visit:

Find out more about the GDS-Index:

Download a high-res image of the Leadership Award winner.

Download a high-res image of the Best Improved Destination winner.

Download a high-res image of the Innovation Award winner.

About the Global Destination Sustainability Index

The GDS-Index is a collaborative business initiative created to help Destinations and Convention Bureaus, drive the adoption, promotion and recognition of responsible practices in the business tourism and events industry. The GDS-Index does this by measuring and comparing the social and environmental sustainability strategies, policies and performance of participating destinations and by sharing best practice from around the world.

About ICCA

The global community and knowledge hub for the international association meetings industry

ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) represents the world's leading suppliers in handling, transporting and accommodating international meetings and events, and comprises over 1,100 member companies and organisations in almost 100 countries worldwide. Since its establishment over 50 years ago, ICCA specialises in the international association meetings sector, offering unrivalled data, communication channels, and business development opportunities.

ICCA members represent the top destinations worldwide and the most experienced specialist suppliers. International meeting planners can rely on the ICCA network to find solutions for all their event objectives: venue selection; technical and strategic advice; assistance with delegate transportation; full convention planning or ad hoc services.