Supporting destinations to improve sustainability performance is the mantra of the GDS-Index. Whether via the Index framework itself, consulting services, online education (GDS-Academy) or an online forum for members (watch this space!), we are firmly invested in ensuring that resilience and regeneration represent the backbone of any company strategy. In light of COVID19, steps for developing sustainable business are now more relevant than ever.

In order for the tourism and events industry to successfully forge a new path, we must not only strengthen links with local communities – the new star stakeholder of any recovering tourism and events strategy – but also integrate long term measures that will enable us to be prepared and step up for society when the next natural or man-made disaster, or pandemic comes knocking.

Examples from across the globe of our sector’s resourcefulness have already featured in wide ranging media – hotels and convention centres repurposing themselves as recovery centres, shelter for the vulnerable, alternative accommodation and parking spaces for key workers; museums providing virtual culture to a quarantined population and restaurants putting equipment and skills to good use to feed healthcare workers and those in need. The activities of the enterprising Event Manager are perhaps not so easily traced during this time but our small army of capable coordinators are well known for “putting out fires,” and represent a force to be reckoned with for all types of emergency assistance and support.

None can deny the creativity and possibilities for support that emanate from within the tourism and events sector, yet the path to real regeneration is paved with steps grounded in a long-term resilience plan that protects those communities who are the hosts of our businesses.

The following five steps propose the foundations of a potential plan to “Step Up” for society:

1) Develop an understanding of the available resources in a destination

Document available resources ie what types of transport are available, what is the capacity to provide meals, how many bedrooms can be repurposed, which NGOs can support society. This mapping of the destination will help DMOs to be better equipped to provide for visitors, citizens and suppliers in times of need.

2) Stimulate the growth of certain supplier types and characteristics

In understanding their resources destinations can identify weak points and potential for growth to withstand a crisis – ie insufficient modes of transport, minimum size requirements and facilities in hotels and convention centres, food suppliers

3) Motivate education in specific skills

Health and Safety, First Aid, lip reading, and sign language are all skills that are valuable in events and could be life savers in a crisis. Virtual and online technologies are now here to stay and the competence of our workforce to manage them has already become part of the day to day.

4) Develop closer relationships with local food producers

Shortening food chains for easier access to fresh produce is increasingly prevalent in destinations, providing value to farmers, hotels and guests alike. However maybe these benefits could go beyond the usual steps to promote sustainable supply chains, and a wider network of producers could be established both to facilitate food to the hungry and ensure that food waste in the field ceases to exist.

5) Accountability

Tourism and Events will never be the same again, and as a sector who is responsible for the displacement of millions of people each year, we must play our part and demonstrate accountability for all impacts related to our business.

  • Health: Health checks, health and safety audits, security checks; as an industry we are responsible not only for delegates and holidaymakers, but also for the communities who host these influxes of people.
  • Technology: We are only ever as strong as our weakest link, of which contemporary technology makes us painfully aware. All businesses are duty bound to protect their IT systems, communally shielding our society from external threats.
  • Respect: The limitations of the environment and human fragility have been laid bare by recent events. The tourism and events industry must abide by a common code of ethics that raises awareness on the consequences of our actions and obliges us to think and act differently, countering negative impacts in every scenario.

At the Sustainable Event Alliance’s recent online Hackathon event, attended by 180 Event Professionals from all over the world, we used a breakout session to discuss this issue and the different options for manifesting accountability from the Events Industry. Ideas ranged from Crisis Funds for times of need and supportive actions for society, to Society Clauses within Sustainability Policies underlining the different commitments to support the local community, whatever the weather.

The GDS-Index remains committed to supporting destinations to building resilience into their strategies, and to supporting the communities that host them.