It’s a qualifiable truth: Destination data needs a good narrative to come to life. Data has power, but to most, a spreadsheet full of facts and figures doesn’t say a whole lot, and that power may remain untapped and untold as long as it goes unexplained. That explanation is relative, too.  Rows and columns and equations full of figures may make sense to a few gifted in numerical (or mathematical, or … statistical!) analysis, but most of us immediately understand a good story. Dress data up or strip it down and it can be magnetic and poetic and an irresistible pitch… or pull! Barbie’s got nothing on what destinations investing in regeneration have at their disposal. So how can they reach her level of popularity? They can get that data out of the closet and onto screens!

Enter the GDS-Index, which measures and ranks destination sustainability efforts. It is based on verified and validated data that is gathered and updated annually. Recently, we extracted six authentic stories about destination sustainability trends. Detailing destination sustainability strategy, participation, inclusion, certification, impact measurement, and the all-important governance, the appeal of these trends demonstrates that unpacking data is good for a brand and good for business (and that GDS-Index is, too!)

If you would like to use your data to tell your story, you may want to ask where the story is.

– It may not be obvious until you dig into it, ask questions, and find meaning.

– It’s often in the conflicts and the changes in the data.

– Look for contradictions, shifts (especially in averages), spikes and dips.

(If you’re participating in the GDS-Index (or thinking of joining), you might want some help in crunching those numbers.)

By unpacking facts and figures, and illustrating them with real-world examples, you can move from “data rich” to “information rich” and educate your audiences, networks, and prospective clients so that they can easily see the bigger picture, and their place in it. Equipped with this insight, they can make smarter choices (that include your destination!). If they know how your story can benefit their own, you have their attention (and possibly their contract). Tell them. Show them. It’s their journey, too!

Why Storytelling matters__

From data to delight and insight: an example

Here’s a simple example.

Raw Data: “We keep a rooftop garden on our Convention Centre roof and harvest from it.”

The story? “Since we established Top of The World rooftop garden on our Convention Centre roof 2 years ago, corporations and associations pick – ahem –  our venue over our competitors because here, their event delegates can

– get their hands dirty with a bit of “soil”-ful volunteering,

– rest and relax in “nature” in the heart of the built environment between conference sessions,

– enjoy its organic fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers in salads and stews served downstairs in the canteen,

– and know that their involvement keeps it going and makes the city cooler and healthier.

Plus, we give surplus produce to established food security charities in the area.”

Think it’s a dream? Not for Montreal, Singapore, Copenhagen, and Orlando. Each destination’s CVBs or key hotel/s have their own, real-life variations on this idea. May it be motivation for you to sow your own seeds and reap the rewards!

It’s all in your pitch

The sustainability movement has been on the rise in recent years. While DMOs and CVBs have begun investing more time, money, and effort into practices that protect and nurture the environmental, social, and economic aspects of their city or region, there is still a huge opportunity for many to do much more. Sustainability pledges can sound vague, abstract, and even insincere. Beautifully-crafted words count, but action gets real credit because its impacts can be quantified. This is why a storytelling strategy counts!

…and it’s in in your plough

Not only do magnetic communications campaigns raise regard for your brand, but the Global Destination Sustainability Movement believes that sharing action rather than intention encourages others to do the same as well. To move closer to “destination regeneration” where we consistently measure and manage our positive impacts towards ever-healthier places for all present, invest in genuine communications that are natural to your organisation.

Avoid These Two Big Destination Storytelling Mistakes

A disconnection between the actions taken and their communication often leads to either:


also known as “talking without doing”


green hushing

also known as “doing without talking”


This is sharing information that is either misleading or outright untrue about an organisation’s positive impacts and/or environmental credentials.

It may be the result of good intentions that lead to generalising or exaggerating, or simply an innocent misinterpretation of data, e.g. “according to the GDS-Index, we rank X in the world for sustainable destinations”. In fact, the GDS-Index does not yet measure every destination on earth, so it’s important that the phrasing respect this reality: GDS-Index ranks participating destinations against one another, making this the more correct version: “we rank X out of 70 destinations in the 2022 GDS-Index”.

Vague concepts like planet-friendly, eco-friendly, are a warning flag (and a liability, under EU law). Even if it’s unintentional – greenwashing can lead to brand sentiment damage, or legal action in the EU. It’s important to check your messaging and marketing to see if you’re telling a true tale, or stretching the truth, and to be sure you’re compliant with the law in your region/country.

Green hushing

Green hushing has 2 forms – active and passive.

While it’s unlikely that you’re practising the active form of it like Canon and others do, deliberately manipulating information to cover up environmental misdeeds, you might be green hushing more passively. You might even feel this is honourable and honest. Is it possible you are underreporting your efforts because you lack information?

Even if your destination is just starting out on your sustainability journey, there may be sustainability steps worth talking about it, like Liverpool happily discovered when they joined GDS-Index and we asked a few leading questions.  

TOP TIP: Avoid both greenwashing and green hushing and keep it real(istic)!

The softer form of the second approach might seem humbler, but neither of them is effective for developing your customers’ trust and winning you more (of the right) business.

Lead with authentic, down-to-earth and relatable accounts of your efforts to measure and improve your destination management so that tourism and events contribute to the positive transformation of your destination.

UPDATE: We love this responsible marketing guide for influencers, press, and photographers, from Bergen.

Want to know more?