For Gothenburg, rankings and competitions are all about driving change and sharing best practice by adopting a visionary and long-term development process. The common focus is on sustainable growth and building a future-proof destination.
Gothenburg is not your typical European megalopolis, but it has positioned itself firmly as a leading destination for conventions and conferences. Since 2016, Gothenburg has topped the rankings in the Global Destination Sustainability Index and doesn’t seem to want to leave that place any time soon. Perhaps better than any other destination, the Swedish city has benefited from its 360-degree sustainable strategy to create jobs and business opportunities and make Gothenburg a shining city in the already competitive visitor economy. Long-term partnerships between public and private stakeholders at local, regional, national and international levels have increased the capacity to innovate, work together and response to the new challenges facing the global events roadmap.
“We’ve been put a lot of effort in supporting the hospitality and meeting industry during this tough period. When digital and hybrid meetings took off, we helped showcase local skills, culture and the city in new ways,” says Annika Hallman (pictured right), director of Gothenburg Convention Bureau at Göteborg & Co − the official destination management organisation of Gothenburg. To strengthen this sense of place, it is important for the CVB that a digital meeting still has a Gothenburg feel. On the other hand, the organisers also imposed several other demands based on changes linked to the pandemic. An important part was digitalisation, fostering conditions for hybrid meetings and educating the meetings industry. “We always strive to strengthen relationships and collaboration with the industry, researchers, in various networks. For us it is even more important now, being in line with our strategic plan established in 2018.” The plan builds on broad collective efforts together with the public, private and academic sectors, continuing to put a focus on bidding processes for future meetings.
Gothenburg has been designated as the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020, boosting substantial performances in four different categories: accessibility, sustainability, digitalisation and heritage/cultural creativity. “The award, and the pandemic, were catalysts in new innovation projects launched together with new stakeholders, for example the Destination Data Platform together with Mastercard. Another example is Experience Next, an innovation programme for the experience industry. Another big consequence was also trying to learn how other destinations were reacting to open data initiatives,” says Hallman. There is a growing demand for legacy - creating activities in the Swedish city: contributing to future research and care, capturing future talent and inciting early vocations already at school. “To give a ripple effect, we work even more closely with different organisations with support, guidance and tools for the conferences that are organised here. Building on this momentum, we created the Gothenburg Way to Legacy model that we are currently offering to our clients.”
Both the previous and the current crisis have shown the importance of trust in the society and within the meetings industry. Sweden did not shut down during the pandemic, but there have been clear guidelines and measures in place. Occupancy of venues and enquiries naturally reached record low levels, with demand driven by domestic travel and national delegates. The major players in Gothenburg had to compulsorily adjust their offers and their workforce. “As well as working with digitalisation, we also look at city centre development and data-based industry knowledge to strengthen competitiveness and secure the future of the hospitality industry,” adds Hallman. Göteborg & Co is responsible for the city’s Visitor Industry Development Programme − 2030 Strategy, serving as a guiding document on how the city should support and strengthen the hospitality industry as a whole. “The focus is on collaboration, knowledge, and legacy-creating work. That is what makes Gothenburg strong as a meeting destination and why organisations choose us.”
On the technological side, the innovation project Hybrid+ was developed to provide guidance on hybrid formats for event organisers. The model is based on the organiser’s objectives, target groups, business standard and technical possibilities, resulting in a basis for decisions and a project plan. In parallel, the impact of new investments in the city has been felt by the commitment to the “green deal” and sustainable meetings. The trend in electrical mobility is exceptionally strong, and the city last year launched Gothenburg Green Zone together with Volvo among others, testing the emission-free transport system of the future. New eco-friendly hotels are currently being built, and they are close to reaching 100% environmentally certified hotels in the city.
Gothenburg has set ambitious sustainable targets and has clear goals on being climate neutral by 2030. As well as integrating the visitor and event perspective into urban planning processes, they drive this transformation through high standards for events, testing new methods − for example in “free disposable public events” and “climate neutral events” − or supporting associations to co-design sustainable meeting solutions. “Our mission as a DMO/CVB is clear – through wide-reaching collaboration, we are to lead and promote the development of Gothenburg as a sustainable destination, so that everyone who lives and works here benefits from a growing hospitality industry,” concludes the CVB director. “We aim to be a welcoming and inclusive city where everyone − residents and visitors − feel at home, an environmentally smart destination with a zero footprint, and a thriving industry with sustainable offerings and attractive jobs for our citizens.”
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