Post-pandemic changes to how people commute, commune, work, and travel are prompting cities and tourism to change.
Digital enhancements are transforming the visitor experience and a post COVID-19 rebound has caused a surge in travel and events.
Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change and biodiversity collapse that tourism and events contribute to are increasing, and these extremes are forcing cities to change as they transition towards a zero-carbon economy.
At the same time, more people – and especially the young (Gen Y and Z) – are feeling increasing levels of concern about the impacts of travelling and pressure to act, not only on climate change, but on social injustice . In general, there is growing impatience with slow, incremental change, and what is wanted – and needed – is radical transformation now.
All these factors influence tourism, and its role in economic, environmental, and social sustainability has risen to the top of the transformation agenda as the 2022 GDS-Index* results demonstrate. They highlight a surge of new strategies, actions, and initiatives from destination management organisations around the world.
Insights and Key Trends
The 2022 GDS-Index results show steep growth in improvement across almost all metrics. Over the past seven years there has been a stunning 33% increase in average performance across all destinations and a 44% increase in the Top 10.
This year’s data shows GDS-Index participants are continuously raising the bar to become regional, national, and international leaders. The Nordic destinations have made a huge performance comeback with 12 destinations in the Top 30, seven of which dominate the Top 10, including the first four positions.
The usual, top Asia Pacific (APAC) performers from Australia have been overtaken by their Korean and Thai neighbours, Goyang and Bangkok.
The Results Lead us to Identify Six Key Trends
Highlighting how pioneering destination management organisations are changing.
1. Integrative Strategy
Strategy development is increasing and becoming more collaborative. 80% of destinations have a sustainable tourism strategy, up from 47% in 2019.
2. Democratic Participation
45% of destinations consulted with visitors, clients, industry, government, and community stakeholders to co-create their strategy, which is 10% more than in 2021.
3. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
EDI (or DEI) is an increasingly important focus for organisations. This year’s new criterion showed that 29% of participating destinations do not have any EDI strategy, training, or tools in place.
4. Third-Party Certification
An average of 34% of hotels across all destinations have third-party certification. There was a surprising increase in certified venue averages – from 47% in 2021 to 58%.
5. Impact Measurement
48% of DMOs have a system to measure and monitor the environmental, economic, and social impact and performance of tourism, up from 15% in 2019.
6. Evolution of Sustainability Governance
92% of DMOs have a dedicated sustainability manager and 55% have formed a committee with external non-industry stakeholders to oversee and steward stakeholder input and participation.
For greater detail, download Raising the Bar, the 2022 GDS-Index Result Report.
* The 2022 Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index) showcases brave, bold and pioneering destinations that recognise that we urgently need to work together to regenerate our cities and towns, and who actively work towards creating places where visitors, communities, and nature can thrive and flourish