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Explore the data from the GDS-Index

We believe that sustainability towards regeneration is essential for creating a better future for people, planet, place, and business. That’s why we created the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), a destination-level performance tool that measures, benchmarks, and improves the sustainability strategy and implementation of tourism and events destinations of participating destinations worldwide. Through our annual assessment of destination sustainability performances, we provide insights and trends into sustainable practices used to drive positive change in more sustainable communities and cities. 

For more detailed look at trends in tourism and case studies, please download the report.

Join us in our mission by exploring the 2023 GDS-Index results from destinations around the world

Use the interactive map or read on to explore GDS-Index tourism trends and insights, destination sustainability reports, compare destinations’ regenerative contributions, and learn more about our mission. 

Destination Sustainability Trends 

The trends graph above shows the overall sustainability performance of all participating GDS-Index destinations in the world over the past six years. This tracks changes over time and demonstrates that top destinations are progressing towards a more sustainable future. 

Key Insights from the 2023 GDS-Index report 

By promoting emerging trends amongst GDS-Index destinations, we wish to inspire other cities to implement similar initiatives and accelerate the movement to become sustainable cities of the future. The findings from the 2023 GDS-Index underscore this goal. 

We have seen a proactive approach among many cities that are establishing formal, non-industry partnerships. These collaborations aim to cultivate enduring, beneficial outcomes and legacies within their communities. These efforts are indicative of a commitment to fostering long-term, positive impacts, reinforcing the importance of sustainability in destination management. 

Impact management and measurement

The past year has been an exciting time to observe influential initiatives and lasting impact made by destinations worldwide. Here is a snapshot of what GDS-Index destinations are doing to become smart and sustainable cities. 

44% of cities facilitate partnerships to help clients to generate positive impact and legacy in the destination
43% of DMO teams are training their teams on impact and legacy management for events
31% provide incentives to clients to help increase the positive social, environmental, and economic impact of events in the destination
30% provide event clients with training on impact and legacy management

New GDS-Index destinations

The 2023 GDS-Index showcases more than 40 new destinations spanning North America, Europe, Asia, and the Nordics, representing mainly small and medium-sized cities, housing a collective population of 22.4 million in contrast to returning destinations, boasting an average population of 74.4 million.

This significant influx of new locations was driven by the commendable efforts of Visit Britain and Destination Canada, introducing 17 Canadian and 12 English destinations respectively.

Newcomers Versus Returning Destinations

A noticeable increase in the overall performance score has been observed for top destinations that are taking part in the GDS-Index journey.   

These dedicated locations seem to outperform the newer cohort of destinations striving for a more sustainable future. This could be due to the maturity of their sustainability strategies and established efforts towards becoming more sustainable destinations. However, there is an increasing trend for newcomers surpassing returning destinations in certain categories, showing that even newer destinations are making big strides in their sustainability endeavours.   

Explore our destination reports to find out more about these top-performing newcomers and returning destinations investing in destination sustainability. 

GDSIndex Size

In 2023 we achieved the significant milestone of benchmarking 100 destinations globally. 

The addition of 42 new cities in 2023 brings fresh perspective from 11 countries worldwide, contributing to increasing representation in our community.

The index data offer valuable insights into the sustainability performance of cities of varied sizes. Large cities comprise 37% of the index, and consistently score the highest across all four categories. Of the rest, 29% are small cities, 21% are medium-sized, 12% are metropolises, and there is 1 megacity.

  1. Middelfart, Denmark
  2. Nyborg, Denmark
  3. Kerry, Ireland
  4. Skelleftea, Sverige
  5. Faroe Islands

Small city, population size: 0-199.999

  1. Bergen, Norway
  2. Aarhus, Denmark
  3. Aalborg, Denmark,
  4. Belfast, Northern Ireland
  5. Zurich, Switzerland

Medium city, population size: 200.000-499.999

  1. Gothenburg, Sweden
  2. Olso, Norway
  3. Copenhagen, Denmark
  4. Helsinki, Finland
  5. Bordeaux, France

Large city, population size: 500.000-1.499.999

  1. Glasgow, Scotland
  2. Singapore
  3. Paris, France
  4. Melbourne, Australia
  5. Sydney, Australia

Metropolis & mega city, population size: 1.500.000-50.000.00

Top Performing Destinations

Discover which cities have achieved the highest scores in our assessment and find inspiration from their sustainable practices. These top-performing cities serve as role models for other destinations and demonstrate the potential for positive change in the events industry. This year’s sustainability index saw significant participation from various regions worldwide. In North America, 23 cities engaged, with 17 newcomers from Canada. Montreal notably led the charge with a commendable 75% score and secured the 33rd rank, indicating a strong commitment to environmental and social progress. Meanwhile, in the Asia Pacific region, 10 cities participated, with Singapore making a remarkable leap of 18 places to secure the 17th position. Goyang also demonstrated commendable leadership, claiming the 14th spot among its peers.

The Nordic region displayed robust engagement, with 17 cities collectively representing a population of 5.1 million. Noteworthy additions included Horsens and Nyborg from Denmark, with Nyborg swiftly climbing to the 18th position upon its return to the index. Additionally, European cities such as Krakow, Ljubljana, and Tallinn welcomed Gdansk as a newcomer, further diversifying the representation and commitment to sustainability efforts. With a total of 46 cities represented and 17 newcomers, the index highlights a global movement towards sustainable practices. Notable performances from cities like Glasgow, Bordeaux, and Belfast, ranking eighth, ninth, and eleventh respectively, underscore the growing momentum towards regenerative urban development.

Not seeing your city on the list?

If your city is not currently rated by the GDS-Index, it’s never too late to join our mission for a better, more sustainable future. We welcome all destinations to engage with us and become part of our community of change-makers.

How do I develop my destination sustainability initiatives?

Are you a destination keen to improve your sustainability performance?
Discover how we can support you on your journey towards becoming a leading sustainable destination.

Ranking and Results

Below you can use the search criteria to find or compare specific destinations by region, city size, or percentage improvement to find your perfect sustainable business destination.

Explore our comprehensive list of all GDS-Index rated destinations and their overall performance scores.

You can also see how each destination has performed in each category, providing a more detailed analysis of their sustainability efforts.

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Gothenburg, Sweden
95 %

The vibrant heart of Scandinavia. The cool and friendly little sister. Home to world-class restaurants, to diverse cultural scenes, sustainable living, and surrounded by beautiful nature. The world’s most sustainable destination according to GDS-Index. This is Gothenburg. We are a destination that wants to make an impact. Investing in sustainability is wise and aims to be a strong force for positive change. We also know that together, you go further. That’s why collaboration is a key element in our strategies and why we share our best practices freely to inspire other destinations. Gothenburg's approach to sustainability has through the years gained international recognition. The city has been the leader in the Global Destination Sustainability Index since 2016 (no ranking was made in 2020) and was the European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2020. Lonely Planet also named it the world's Best Sustainable City Stay 2021. In April 2022, Gothenburg became one of the European Union’s 100 climate-neutral and smart cities – forerunner cities on a mission towards climate neutrality 2030. Gothenburg is also a European Capitals of Inclusion and Diversity Awards winner. With a vision of being fossil-independent by 2030, smart accessibility and mobility with 95 percent of public transport running on renewable energy, a sustainable tourism ecosystem with approximately 92 percent of environmentally certified hotel rooms, a strong legacy program for events and meetings, and a strive for a more circular economy, we have made sustainability our business.

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Oslo, Norway
92 %

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is committed to sustainable tourism and has implemented a comprehensive sustainability program through VisitOSLO/Oslo Convention Bureau. We aim to ensure that tourism in Oslo benefits the environment, the local community, and the economy in a balanced and responsible manner. Key elements of our sustainability program include green tourism certification, sustainable transportation, waste management and recycling, green spaces and biodiversity, community engagement and education, sustainable events and carbon reduction goals. By integrating these initiatives, Oslo strives to be a leading example of sustainable urban tourism, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the city's rich cultural heritage and natural beauty.

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Copenhagen, Denmark
92 %

In 2018, Copenhagen’s DMO, Wonderful Copenhagen launched its sustainability strategy ‘Tourism for Good’ with an ambition to ensure that tourism has a positive impact on local and global sustainable development. Contributing to the realisation of UN SDGs, the strategy consists of four focus areas: Broadening tourism, Tourism choices matter, Partnerships for good and Leading by example. The same year, the strategy won the ICCA Innovation Award. In the beginning of 2019, Wonderful Copenhagen became the first DMO to receive the Green Tourism Organization certification – a certification that focuses on supporting destinations and organisations that make an extra effort for sustainability.

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Helsinki, Finland
90 %

Helsinki's goal is to be an international pioneer and provider of solutions in sustainable tourism and events

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Bergen, Norway
90 %

Bergen is situated between the fjords in the western part of Norway and is the second-largest city in Norway. The World Heritage site Bryggen and the Fløibanen funicular, some of the most visited attractions in Norway, are just a few of Bergen's many attractions. Bergen is the only major city in Norway that have been awarded Innovation Norway's label for Sustainable Destinations, a national labeling scheme for destinations dedicated to sustainable development. The labeling scheme builds upon a standard recognized by The Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Visit Bergen's ambition is to create a sustainable and profitable destination, for both our visitors and inhabitants. And our aim is to make Bergen a better place to live and a better place to visit.

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Aarhus, Denmark
89 %

Actions speaks louder than words - and the climate changes require action! But to make the actions have an impact, a DMO cannot walk alone. In Aarhus we have formed a close, strategic collaboration between the key stakeholders (Aarhus University, the DMO, the Municipality and Aarhus Events). As a result a Green Handbook for Events and Conferences was published and is free and accessible to all. We believe that a hands-on approach combined with a strategic collaboration is the best way to act and to make an impact. It should not be difficult to choose a more sustainable option - it should be the natural choice. We hope our approach can inspire others!

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Aalborg, Denmark
88 %

The sustainability program for Destination Nord 2023-25 aligns with the national agenda for sustainable growth in Danish tourism. It aims to maintain Denmark's attractiveness as a tourist destination while fostering environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable growth. This entails transitioning Danish tourism towards a model that benefits businesses, tourists, local communities, culture, nature, and society at large. Destination Nord supports the national strategy by spearheading local tourism promotion efforts and creating optimal conditions for sustainable tourism development in Aalborg, Frederikshavn, Brønderslev, and Læsø municipalities. Additionally, it seeks to influence sustainable development across national tourism organizations, inter-municipal destination companies, and the business sector. Destination Nord’s purpose is to foster responsible development and have a significant positive impact on the economy, environment, and society. Sustainability is integrated into Destination Nord’s core business strategy, focusing on developing a new tourism geography based on unique landmarks, narratives, and initiatives that generate long-term business and sustainable growth through partnerships, branding, marketing, and knowledge sharing. Destination Nord’s sustainability ambitions encompass environmental, social, and economic aspects, guided by the principles of resilience and regenerative development. Destination Nord aims to contribute more to society than Destination Nord consumes, protecting and benefiting the local environment and culture. The strategy incorporates the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the ten principles of the UN Global Compact into Destination Nord’s three focus areas: environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Environmental Sustainability: Destination Nord monitors and reduces its environmental footprint internally and supports tourism stakeholders in transitioning to sustainable practices, with a focus on climate action and waste reduction. Social Sustainability: Destination Nord prioritizes human rights, diversity, and inclusion, aiming to create decent employment opportunities, promote safety, health, and well-being, and educate stakeholders on sustainability and diversity agendas. Economic Sustainability: Destination Nord works to achieve long-term economic growth while minimizing environmental impact and social inequality. Destination Nord support businesses in adopting circular practices, fostering innovation, and improving infrastructure. The sustainability efforts are overseen by the top management team and a cross-functional sustainability committee led by a Sustainability Manager, ensuring alignment with the organization's overall strategic direction and goals. Detailed action plans with short and long-term targets have been developed for environmental and social sustainability, aiming to make a positive difference in the local community and beyond.

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Glasgow, United Kingdom
87 %

Glasgow aims to be at the forefront on climate change with ambitions to become the UK's first carbon neutral city by 2030 and a world leading centre for sustainable policy and innovation. Glasgow has featured within the top 10 of the GDS-Index since it joined back in 2016. The ranking recognises the huge strides the city is making around driving forward systemic and cultural change which supports positive environmental and inclusive impact.

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Bordeaux, France
87 %

Between vineyard and ocean, Bordeaux is the gateway to the South West and the epitome of the sweetness of life. Known for being a jewel of 18th century architecture, the city has reinvented itself in recent years to become a destination of choice for leisure tourism and professional events. Wine, cannelés, oysters... Our specialties make Bordeaux a true symbol of the French way of life. Bordeaux is also the breeding ground for a trendy alternative culture that jostles the "Port of the Moon". For many years, we have been committed to sustainable tourism, as part of our constant concern for our quality of welcome and for the sustainable development of our territory. The Bordeaux Tourist Office is ISO 20121 certified for its sustainable management, including in the organisation of the Bordeaux Wine Festival. In 2021, we launched the "Agora for tourism in Bordeaux" programme: an open governance to co-build our long-term strategy with our residents and stakeholders.

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Stockholm, Sweden
87 %

The City of Stockholm is an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable city where people want to live, grow old and raise their children. The city has actively reduced its climate impact and achieved strong economic development, and the Stockholm living environments are generally good and safe. Sustainability plays an important role in the city’s overall policy document: Vision 2040 Stockholm – City of Opportunities. This document outlines the city’s long-term ambitions with regard to sustainable development. The vision is based on the city’s three principal operational goals: • A modern city with opportunities for everyone • A dynamic and sustainably growing city • A financially sustainable and innovative city The City of Stockholm's sustainability report 2021 provides an overall picture of the city's sustainability challenges, where the city's three focus goals and the UN's 17 global goals for sustainable development are the starting point. The report reflects developments in the city and its activities as well as developments in society.

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Belfast, United Kingdom
86 %

Belfast launched its Resilience Strategy, the city’s first climate plan in December 2020. It sets out 30 transformational programmes to transition Belfast to an inclusive, zero-emissions, climate-resilient economy within a generation. As the city’s Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), Visit Belfast is playing a key role supporting Belfast’s ambition. In partnership with Belfast City Council, we have committed to the development of a sustainable tourism strategy as one of the resilience strategy transformational programmes. It is within this context that Visit Belfast has launched its sustainability strategy, policy and action plan.

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Zurich, Switzerland
84 %

Zurich is one of the most sustainable convention destinations in the world. Climate-neutral excursion activities, hotels with sustainability certification, short distances, and a highly efficient public transportation network: Zurich provides the perfect framework conditions for holding sustainable events. As your local partner, the Zurich Tourism Convention Bureau will accompany you from the initial bidding stage right through to the implementation of your congress, meeting, or event. On doing so, our experienced team takes into account values such as environmental friendliness, economic efficiency, and fair working conditions.

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Lyon, France
83 %

Lyon got the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2019 award granted by the European Union. Bestowed for the very first time by the European Union, this competition honours this attractive, dynamic and accessible city's efforts to boost smart tourism thanks to trailblazing accomplishments in matter of digital innovations, environmental friendliness and the quality of life of its residents. The Lyon Metropole, all those involved in the tourist sector, including the inhabitants are committed to develop sustainable tourism to Lyon!

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Goyang, South Korea
83 %

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Tirol, Austria
83 %

Tirol is located in the heart of the Alps surrounded by natural and mountain landscapes. In 2021, the Tirol region participated in the GDS benchmarking process for the first time and published the sustainability strategy ReGenerationNOW in the same year. The strategy pursues the goal of advancing the positioning of the meeting and convention region Tirol on a sustainable and regenerative basis. The strategy is based on 4 pillars, the so-called 4 P's: - enabling People - connecting Partners - developing Prosumers - living Proof In September 2021, the Convention Bureau Tirol and the Tirol Tourist Board were awarded the Austrian Eco-Label and have since been licensees in the field of Green Meetings & Events.

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Middelfart, Denmark
82 %

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Singapore, Singapore
82 %

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Nyborg, Denmark
82 %

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Kerry, Ireland
81 %

Kerry is future focused and extremely proud to be Ireland’s leading Sustainable Tourism destination, ranking alongside key global MICE destinations in the Top 20 since 2019. Working in collaboration with our partners at Kerry Tourism Industry Federation, our participation in this global benchmarking tool enables us to drive progress in the sustainable development of Kerry by engaging industry stakeholders, local community, and government. .Kerry Convention Bureau is constantly striving to work with our members to innovate and improve on new ways to be greener than before, pushing to bring sustainability to the forefront of the industry and at the heart of what we do. We work closely with industry leading organisations both within Ireland and internationally to stay informed and ensure that we are adopting best practice, accessing current training opportunities and in turn, sharing these with our members. We are committed to working with all our industry partners across the region to promote sustainability within the MICE industry. Our objective is to make holding a green event in Kerry easy!

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Skelleftea, Sweden
81 %

Visit Skellefteå sustainability strategy is connected to the development strategy Skellefteå 2030 and the long-term overall goals for the destination. The strategy describes how the tourism industry and the DMO should proceed towards 2030 to contribute to the overall goals for the destination. The development must be sustainable and focusing on what is best for the inhabitants. The starting point is the vision” A sustainable place for a better everyday life”. Skellefteå is a sustainable destination that takes responsibility for future generations. There is a drive and a will to constantly evolve, and we do it with respect for our environment, our inhabitants, and our assets.

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