by Gráinne Connolly
County Down has been selected as the only destination in the UK and Ireland, to win a spot in the prestigious Sustainable Destinations Top 100.
As well as achieving a place in the Top 100, County Down has also achieved a Gold Award.
The annual list, which is organised by Green Destinations and a partnership of 12 organisations, celebrates the efforts of established and emerging tourism destinations for responsible and sustainable tourism.
Nominators had to provide extensive information on their destination and its efforts to make itself and its stakeholders more sustainable for the benefit of visitors, local communities and the world.
Candidate destinations had to clarify what they have been doing to comply with the 100 globally recognized criteria of the Green Destinations Standard.
Nominations were then evaluated by the Sustainable Top 100 Team and by members of the Top 100 International Committee and country experts.
(Ring of Gullion, Newry)
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairman, Councillor Mark Murnin said, “We are delighted that our beautiful district has been recognised by Green Destinations.
"This outstanding achievement was only possible thanks to the joint commitment of tourism businesses in the region, the Council and its partners. It gives us significant marketing advantage as we promote the region in 2019.”
Stuart Park, Lead Sustainability Assessor for Green Tourism, acted as a mentor for the County Down application.
He said, “Achieving a spot in the 2018 Sustainable Destinations Top 100, as well as the prestigious Gold Award, are well deserved recognition for County Down.
“County Down has put an emphasis on more sustainable options through outstanding walking and cycling routes throughout the Mournes, Ring of Gullion and around Strangford Lough, unique local food and drink, rich wildlife, history and culture.
"Supporting this is a well-developed infrastructure with effective waste management practices, low carbon travel options as well as excellent visitor experiences and green accommodation providers.
“The local authorities, local tourism businesses and various partner organisations really worked well together to demonstrate the strengths of County Down.
"They put together a very strong case for the Green Destination award which combined strong policies and plans with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable destination team.
"It was clear that an effort was being made to reduce the impacts of the destination while enhancing the visitor experience.
“It is no surprise that this has helped increase tourism to County Down, while the region is now attracting some world-class sporting events as well as location filming for prestigious TV and cinema productions.“
(Strangford Lough, County Down)
Mayor of Ards and North Down Borough Council, Councillor Richard Smart said, “At a time when consumer awareness of sustainability has never been so strong, the region has proven itself through rigorous assessment to be a leading sustainable destination.
"This is a credit to all partners and will give yet another opportunity to highlight the authenticity of our visitor experience.”
The Top 100 initiative aims to recognise tourism destinations that have worked hard to make a difference and take sustainability seriously.
Nevertheless, no destination is fully sustainable. In all selected destinations important issues remain to be solved.
Visitors’ carbon emissions are currently not taken into account in this competition due to the lack of suitable data and tools. However, Green Destinations recommends travellers to avoid long-haul travels and to appropriately compensate their carbon emission.
The winners will be celebrated and will receive their Certificate at the ITB Earth Award, Top 100 Awards ceremony, 6 March at ITB Berlin.