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Travel & Tourism

Belfast Ranked in Top 20 Global Sustainable Destinations

Belfast ranked #19 out of 73 cities worldwide by the Global Destination Sustainability Index, confirming its tourism ambitions to be a sustainable destination of the future

Belfast has made the Top 20 official list of sustainable destinations in the world, securing a prominent place on the international stage as a leading city tourism destination committed to sustainable development and growth.

This international ranking was confirmed by the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), the world’s largest sustainability performance improvement and benchmarking programme for destinations which revealed its Top 20 list of sustainable cities at a major event in Paris.

Other leading sustainable Top 20 cities for 2021 include Gothenburg, Zurich, Sydney, Helsinki, Cork, Brussels and Glasgow.

With a score this year of 70.7 percent, Belfast has climbed up the rankings to number 19 among a total of 73 global destinations. Demonstrating a focus to build back better and bring sustainability to the forefront of tourism growth and development.

The GDS Index evaluated Belfast’s on four key areas: environmental strategy and infrastructure, social sustainability performance, industry supplier support and the strategy and initiatives of the city’s destination marketing and management organisation (DMMO) Visit Belfast.

Belfast launched its Resilience Strategy – the city’s first climate plan – in December 2020, setting out 30 transformational programmes to transition the Belfast City Region to an inclusive, zero-emissions, climate-resilient economy within a generation.

Belfast joined the GDS Index in 2020, and, after debuting at number 47, the city has worked collaboratively to develop an ambitious plan to accelerate performance and putting sustainability at the, heart of its tourism recovery and growth plans.

Welcoming the news, Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Kate Nicholl, said:

“I’m really pleased that Belfast has been recognised by the GDS-Index for its efforts in driving its environmental and sustainability credentials and placing sustainable tourism at the heart of city development.

Tourism plays an important role in enriching the culture and vibrancy of our city and a move towards building a more sustainable tourism destination is vital in future-proofing Belfast for generations to come. Being placed in the top 20 sustainable destinations elevates our city on the global stage and clearly sets out our qualities as an appealing, attractive, responsible tourism destination.

The notable jump in our performance is testament to the continued collaborative work by Council, Visit Belfast and city partners to drive Belfast towards sustainable and inclusive growth. Congratulations to everyone involved in making this happen.”

Launched in February, Visit Belfast’s three-year recovery plan, Rebuilding City Tourism 2021-24, set 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 plan also forces a rethink about what a new and successful tourism destination looks like.

Visit Belfast Chief Executive Gerry Lennon said:

“This is hugely positive news for our city – to be ranked alongside some of the most pioneering cities in the world for sustainability is a significant achievement. It’s critically important that we see Belfast transition to a sustainable destination as quickly as possible, so I’m extremely proud of the contribution and work in the last year to see Belfast propelled into the Top 20 list of top sustainable destinations globally.

Since launching our ambitious sustainability plan with Belfast City Council, we have been focused on attracting visitors to the city, generating economic benefit and inclusive growth and enabling Belfast to become a more sustainable place to visit, meet and live.

Working with our industry partners, we are placing sustainability at the centre of everything we do, adopting responsible and sustainable tourism practices to ensure Belfast remains relevant in a constantly competitive marketplace in which consumers are more culturally and environmentally aware. These partnership efforts will be crucial as we work to deliver on our commitments outlined in our tourism recovery plan.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see that our collective efforts in this area have been recognised globally by the GDS Movement. We must thank our funders Belfast City Council and Tourism Northern Ireland, as well as our hospitality and tourism industry partners and the entire Visit Belfast team for their dedicated focus as we #buildbackbetter.”

Earlier this year, Visit Belfast also launched the largest-ever green tourism city partnership at a dedicated ‘Sustainable Belfast’ event.

The ‘Green Tourism’ initiative aims to bolster Belfast’s sustainability credentials and enhance the competitiveness of its tourism and hospitality sector by awarding an independent, third party certification to boost sustainable business.

Designed to help individual tourism businesses contribute to improving the environment, address climate change and lift the local economy, the Green Tourism initiative, the largest and most established sustainable certification programme in the world, encourages eligible local businesses to boost their environmental credentials and be rewarded for their efforts through an international award.

Funded by Belfast City Council and delivered by Visit Belfast, the initiative has already increased Belfast Green Tourism members by 400% with the aim of creating 150 Green Tourism certified businesses across Belfast city in 2022.

Visit Belfast was also awarded a bronze accreditation from Green Tourism in June this year in recognition of its focus on developing sustainable practices within the organisation and driving the city’s tourism ambitions to deliver key sustainable tourism initiatives. In addition to launching a new sustainability policy, Visit Belfast has developed a new business events sustainability framework for event organisers to encourage green tourism throughout the events and conferencing sector. Through this initiative, Visit Belfast aims to increase the number of inbound business events delivered against dedicated sustainability and legacy targets to 80% by 2025.

Travel & Tourism

4 Towns In Northern Ireland Voted Friendliest Visitor Destinations in UK

Tourism NI has welcomed the news that four towns in Northern Ireland have been awarded the friendliest visitor destinations in the UK with Enniskillen in County Fermanagh voted number one most welcoming in the UK.

Alongside Enniskillen, Ballycastle, County Antrim; Bushmills, County Antrim and Newcastle, County Down all appeared on the top 10 most welcoming list.

Tourism NI chief executive John McGrillen said the news was a much needed boost for the tourism sector in Northern Ireland that has experienced a two year blow to an industry which was riding high after a record breaking 2019 when revenue surpassed £1 billion for the first time.

He added: “While it has been two years of unprecedented crisis for the industry, I am pleased to know that despite the enormous challenges, our towns have dominated the top 10 list of friendliest visitor destinations. The news comes in the same week as the Game of Thrones Studio Tour opens its doors to the public and will help to put Northern Ireland on the map as a must visit destination for those far and wide.”

McGrillen believes the tourism industry has been incredibly resilient in the face of the global pandemic. 

“There will be brighter opportunities in the years ahead and I have confidence that with the appropriate support, tourism in Northern Ireland will bounce back,” he said. 

Other locations which made the top 10 list were Frome in Somerset; Glastonbury, Somerset: Shetland; Wick, Highlands and Kelso, Scottish Borders.

Following research from more than 232 million verified reviews as part of’s 10th annual Traveller Review Awards, the awards recognise more than 1.25 million travel providers around the world for their hospitality, including 53,623 in the UK.

The winning list was decided by the total share of Traveller Review Award 2022 recipients when compared to the total number of eligible properties in that town or city.

McGrillen added: “Tourism is absolutely vital for us as it provides passengers for our public transport and supports sea and air routes; it generates revenue to support our culture and heritage assets and can contribute to the protection of our natural environment; it provides revenue for central and local government and promotes a positive image of Northern Ireland overseas, supporting foreign direct investment.”

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Travel & Tourism

Experience an ‘out of this world’ Christmas at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory

The Chair of the Council, Councillor Paul McLean and Santa enjoy the Christmas OM Odyssey as part of the OM Santa Experience at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory.

Enjoy an ‘out of this world’ Santa experience this Christmas at OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory.

This Christmas, children can enjoy a Santa experience with a difference at the new star gazing facility at Davagh Forest in the foothills of the Sperrin mountains.

During the OM Santa Experience, children, and adults alike, will be utterly ‘star struck’ as they are taken on a tour of the unique facility and then watch the Christmas OM Odyssey, a bespoke festive film capturing Santa’s magical journey through the sky on Christmas Eve.

The festive film will be screened on the side of the OM building, with families watching from a dedicated viewing area using individual headsets.

Children will then get to write their letters to Santa in the crafts room before getting to deliver them in person to the man himself during a special visit where they will receive a stocking full of goodies.

The OM Santa Experience will run over three weekends beginning on Sunday 28 November and finishing on Sunday 12 December. Tickets cost £10 per child and adults go free (limited to two adults per family).

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean is pleased the Council can offer this festive event to families in the district.

“The last 20 months have been extremely difficult for all of us and none more so than for our children who have had to endure so much and adapt to different ways of doing things in almost all aspects of their lives. Christmas is a time of joy and celebration and so it pleases me greatly that we can offer this one-of-a-kind magical Christmas experience to families and children in Mid Ulster this Christmas.

“This year marks OM’s first Christmas, having only opened its doors to the public in June this year. The Santa experience is the perfect debut seasonal event for the centre, complementing and enhancing its already established and successful offering and extending its appeal to the family market.”To book your tickets for the OM Santa Experience, go or telephone the Observatory on: 028 8676 0681

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