Visit Belfast and Belfast City Council have launched a powerful new initiative designed to rapidly advance sustainability within the city’s tourism sector and redefine the sector’s growth for a generation.
Designed to help individual tourism businesses contribute to improving the environment, address climate change and lift the local economy, a new partnership with global sustainability experts, Green Tourism, will encourage eligible local businesses to boost their environmental credentials and be rewarded for their efforts through an international award.
Offering Belfast businesses the chance to secure gold, silver or bronze accreditation for their efforts to meet best-practice standards in sustainability – with membership funded by Belfast City Council – the Green Tourism Award is the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world.
The initiative will help tackle the climate emergency, improve Belfast’s sustainability credentials as a destination and help the industry compete within a changing and competitive marketplace. It also recognises changing consumer behaviour in favour of more sustainable and ethical visitor destinations.
Speaking at the “Sustainable Belfast” launch event, Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Kate Nicholl said:
“Covid-19 has changed how we think and feel about the world around us and it provided us with renewed opportunity and commitment to rebuild Belfast in a different way. We know that we must all play our part – individually, collectively and across society. Regardless of industry or sector, we all bear responsibility for stopping and reversing the effects of climate change on our planet.”
Belfast City Council declared a climate change emergency in October 2019 and unveiled the city’s first Climate Plan last year.
“Belfast City Council is committed to taking action on climate change, and it is something that I will be focusing on in my year as Lord Mayor. I’m pleased to launch this initiative, which recognises the role the tourism industry can play in transitioning to an inclusive, zero emissions economy within a generation,” the Lord Mayor said.
“Taking urgent action on climate change will not only protect our city’s natural environment, but also our built heritage and cultural assets that make this city a wonderful place to live, work and visit.”
Visit Belfast’s three-year recovery plan, Rebuilding City Tourism 2021-24, sets out a new direction of travel for tourism promotion. The plans focus on supporting sustainable tourism recovery while moving to a greener and more inclusive tourism model. The landmark plan also forces a rethink about what a new and successful tourism destination looks like.
Gerry Lennon, Chief Executive of Visit Belfast said:
“Even before Covid-19, visitors and policymakers were taking a more critical look at tourism and its potential impacts. Tourists and visitors are more culturally and environmentally aware, more health conscious, and want to seek out unique, indigenous and sharable experiences in destinations that demonstrate support for its people, place and planet.
“Partnership has been a central pillar of Visit Belfast’s success for more than two decades, and by facing these challenges together, we will succeed in rebuilding tourism to the Belfast city region for the betterment of businesses, our employees, our residents and our visitors.”
As part of the launch the launch of this new initiative, Visit Belfast has also announced that it has received a bronze accreditation from Green Tourism.
Gerry added: “As the City’s Destination Marketing Organisation, we know that improving our sustainability credentials will be key to securing fresh business in the new normal. That’s why securing an independent, third party accreditation from a recognised authority is so important.
“We have a bold ambition – to have 50% of our tourism and hospitality businesses committed to going for a Green Tourism Award in the next 12 months, supporting a green recovery and positioning Belfast as a sustainable destination.”
The new partnership will allow tourism and hospitality business within the council area to apply for the internationally recognised Green Tourism Standard, thanks to funding and support from Belfast City Council and Visit Belfast. The Green Tourism Standard recognises an organisation that works responsibly, ethically and sustainably, contributes to their community, is reducing their impact on the environment and aims to be accessible and inclusive to all visitors and staff.
Andrea Nicholas, Chief Executive of Green Tourism, said: “We very excited to be partnering with Visit Belfast and the Belfast City Council to help deliver their bold and ambitious green tourism plans for the city. Belfast’s commitment to greening their tourism businesses and destination is very forward-thinking and at a level I have not experienced before. It is truly to be commended and hopefully an example to other destinations looking to put sustainability standards at the top of the agenda and at the same time support their local businesses as they build back better from the impact of Covid-19.”