GDS-Forum: Creating a Sustainable Vision of Destination Stewardship

In an eventful week, Valencia in Spain hosted the inaugural GDS-Forum organised by the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (GDS-Movement) which preceded the CityDNA Autumn Conference. The Forum departed from the meeting norms of pre-pandemic times to unveil the ‘unconference’ which Founder and CEO, Guy Bigwood, described as ‘a workshop on steroids’. It was undoubtedly different and a refreshingly motivational format with a strong emphasis on collaborative interaction amid inspiring settings (see video #1 below).

Gathering 130 of the world’s leading #SustainabilityProfs, the Movement aspired to unlock the collective intelligence of what has to be considered the premier community of DMO’s committed to purpose-driven regenerative tourism, and sustainable destination management. Bigwood and his team preceded the event by convening over 250 of the host city’s public, private, and NGO / Impact sector stakeholders to discuss the potential for collaboration around social impact, something he describes as ‘taking legacy forwards on turbo…’

Bigwood: ‘How do we inspire people to change the articles of their companies to be for purpose, how do we learn a language that the charities understand….and where can we collaborate?’

In the second video from GDS-Forum #1, featuring the delegates attending the event, Jane Cunningham – Director of European Engagement at Destinations International (DI) – emphasises the importance of the DMO as an enabler for policy alignment, community engagement, and the narrowing of the gap between the aspirations and reality of where a destination’s sustainable development sits today, and where it wants to be in the future. A new range of faces and voices emerge from the conference culminating in the GDS-Awards, including the first GDS-#MEET4Impact ‘Impact Award’ secured by BE Sydney for its leadership in changing the narrative surrounding event legacy and social impact. Iceberg Ambassador and #MEET4Impact Founder & CEO, Geneviève Leclerc, was on hand to do the honours.

Cunningham: ‘We need to hammer home the message of how and why a destination organisation needs to be supported, and funded…’

The second edition of the GDS-Forum will take place in October 2024 in the Belgium city of Bruges and will again partner and co-locate alongside the CityDNA Autumn Conference. You can bookmark the event here. Bigwood confirmed his ambitions to replicate the GDS-Forum beyond the sustainability stronghold of Europe…
Further reading:

Boardroom article, by Remi Deve – Lessons Learned from the GDS Forum in Valencia

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