Flanders Joins the GDS Index Presenting a Regional Approach to Sustainability

12th Nov, 2019

Visit Flanders and the region’s five major cities - Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven, and Mechelen have all joined the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index). Along with Brussels, the Flemish cities now form part of a sustainability movement which comprises 56 cities worldwide, with a commitment to become more regenerative places to visit, meet and thrive in.

VisitFlanders, and the Belgian cities it represents, perceived a need to develop a regional sustainability strategy that addresses the environmental, social and economic impacts of their local MICE industry.

The Flemish cities share the common mantra that what we do not measure, we cannot improve. A holistic approach that measures and benchmarks the full impact of the MICE and tourism industry is what will reveal the true cost of business, as well as opportunities for improvement and sustainable growth. Following consultations with Brussels, a member of the GDS-Index since 2017, Flanders has now adopted the benchmarking approach and is committed to improving the sustainability strategy and performance of its MICE destinations.

The Convention Bureaus and Destination Management Organisations of the five cities, in addition to VisitFlanders itself, have committed to:

  • Measure and benchmark the sustainability of their meeting and events sectors;
  • Improve their sustainability strategies through a collaborative and inclusive effort;
  • Integrate the 17 Sustainable Development Goalsinto their visitor economy;
  • Inspire clients to prize destinations with solid event sustainability initiatives;
  • Share their responsible business initiatives and regenerative practices with the world.

The region-wide perspective that Flanders has adopted is also being implemented in Scandinavia and Ireland. By addressing the synergies in sustainability issues, whole regions are increasingly seeing the value in taking bold steps away from an individualistic approach, to focus on healthy competition, collaborative action and results that benefit business, society and the local environment.

Peter De Wilde, CEO of VISITFLANDERS comments: “The results of the GDS Index are the beginning of an important learning process to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of Flanders and its cities as a business destination. The common goal amongst all our partners is to offer visitors an unforgettable and sustainable experience and to flourish as a destination. The concrete insights provided by the GDS scan will undoubtedly be very helpful tools in this process."

Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of the GDS-Index comments: “With rising temperatures and climatic disruptions, social movements are springing up to protest government inaction. Flanders is a showcase example of collaborative action. Taking a regional approach is still, unfortunately, relatively rare, making this small geographical region a big visionary when it comes to sustainable development. We at the GDS-Index look forward to accompanying them on their sustainability journey, helping them to develop a strategic action plan, and leave behind a positive legacy for future generations.”

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