New white paper reveals Belfast’s rise to one of the world’s leading sustainable tourism destinations and provides blueprint for other cities to follow

A new report released by Green Tourism, Visit Belfast and the Global Destination Sustainability Movement shows Belfast’s transition to become a premier sustainable tourism destination – and how other cities can learn from its approach

white paper released at the UKinbound Annual Convention in Belfast reveals how a pioneering partnership between Green Tourism and Visit Belfast and Belfast City Council has helped to propel Northern Ireland’s capital into the Global Destinations Sustainability Index* Top 10.

The report, Sustainable tourism for cities and stakeholders, and the Belfast model for success, is co-authored by Green Tourism, Visit Belfast and the Global Destinations Sustainability Movement.

The partnership between Green Tourism, Visit Belfast and Belfast City Council was first launched in 2021 to help the city’s tourism sector recover following the Covid-19 pandemic and to help achieve the Belfast Resilience Goal of being an inclusive, zero-emissions, climate-resilient economy within a generation.

Eighteen months on, the white paper reveals how the four partners have collaborated to put this commitment into action and to achieve the following remarkable results:

  • Belfast’s rise from 47th place into the Top 10 in the annual 2022 Global Destinations Sustainability Index, which measures the sustainability performance of tourism destinations, to drive innovation and regeneration of the tourism industry
  • Belfast positioned as the only destination on the island of Ireland and one of two cities in the United Kingdom to make the top 10 position
  • More than 90 Belfast hotels, attractions and restaurants have committed to sustainable tourism through the internationally recognised Green Tourism certification and awards programme – up from 5 in 2021. 47 Green Tourism or Green Meetings members are now Green Tourism Award-holders, up from 8 before the Belfast initiative
  • 75% of Belfast hotel bedrooms now hold a sustainability certification – up from 25% in 2021

Titanic Belfast, ICC Belfast, Queen’s University Belfast and Belfast Zoo were amongst the first businesses to join Visit Belfast’s Green Tourism programme.

Now, 75% of all Belfast hotel bedrooms are sustainability certified with over 20 leading city hotels holding a Green Tourism Award.

The public-private sector partnership approach that has contributed to Belfast’s transition to a more sustainable destination should be seen by other destinations as ‘a blueprint for excellence’, according to Green Tourism’s Managing Director, Scott Maclean.

He said: “We see this white paper as a pathway for others to instigate changes and improvements that put sustainability at the heart of their tourism sector and hope it can be seen as a blueprint for excellence for all forward-thinking destinations. Green Tourism is enormously proud to have played a part in Belfast’s transition alongside all our partners and, of course, all the newly accredited Green Tourism member businesses.”

Councillor Róis-Máire Donnelly, Chair of Belfast City Council’s Climate and City Resilience Committee said: “We know there’s significant work ahead for us as a city to become truly sustainable but being rated number 8 in the Top 10 Global Destinations Sustainability Index is very encouraging – and that’s thanks to the efforts of Visit Belfast and our city’s tourism meetings industry.

“We’re serious about making sustainable changes. The Net Zero Carbon Roadmap was developed by the Belfast Climate Commission and the council adopted those carbon targets in 2022. A Local Area Energy Plan is now being developed, and The Belfast Agenda, currently out for consultation, also sets out a bold plan to tackle climate change. And collective design, delivery and partnership is the way forward.”

Rachael McGuickin, Director of Business Development, Sustainability and Transformation at Visit Belfast, said: “The commitment of Belfast’s tourism and hospitality sector to support our ambitious sustainability journey is nothing short of remarkable. With our valued partners on board, we are not only improving our ability to compete globally for visitors and events, but we are also enabling Belfast to become a more sustainable place to visit, meet and live in.”

Guy Bigwood, CEO of the GDS-Movement, said: “Visit Belfast and Belfast City Council have used the Global Destinations Sustainability Index to identify where the city, the tourism supply chain and the destination marketing organisation are doing well and where action needs to be prioritised. They then have skilfully worked with their partners to set a vision, develop and implement a multi-year action plan that is producing measurable impact. It’s a true example of leadership and collaboration.”

Joss Croft OBE, CEO of UKinbound, said: “The publication of this white paper could not have come at a better time. Over the last few months, we have seen the devastating impact of climate change on communities around the world and so now more than ever, destinations need to accelerate their plans to reduce carbon emissions. Belfast’s sustainability ranking has really helped us to focus our thinking about how we can minimise the impact of our Annual Convention on the environment from encouraging delegates to take sustainable forms of transport, designing menus that use local, seasonal produce and reducing waste and single use items where we can.”

https://www.gds.earth/2022-results/