Out of the Ordinary Education to Transform our Sector

6th Jan, 2022

Once upon a time the world changed entirely. In January 2020, we faced the first of severe lockdowns to contain the emergence of a worldwide pandemic. Tourism, events and the MICE industry were hard hit as was the hospitality and service industry. Nearly two years later we are limping towards recovery with little idea as to what that will look like but all trends, research and forecasting are saying it points to a sustainable future where the impacts of our being have less impact.

By Melissa Baird – Head of Communications for the GDS-Movement 

The research that Booking.com brought out this month is showing what the GDS-Movement has long expected; that consumer attitudes towards sustainability issues (83% of global travellers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future) would change and take centre stage. The pandemic has made us realise what is truly valuable and as much as we review our business strategies, we are also reviewing our relationship to things and the impact they have on us and our environment. At the same time the transition to the sustainable economy is accelerating at an unbelievable rate. 

Governments all around the world and especially the US and UK have significantly increased their ambition and brought forward their carbon neutrality goals. Last year we saw a 90% increase in sustainable investments in the stock market. This shift in attitude, policy and finance will and is already catalysing a major shift in the re-design of our products, services and systems to be far more regenerative and sustainable. The events, travel and tourism sector is playing catch-up. 

The GDS Academy has been in incubation for some time and its recent launch offers hope for professionals seeking to develop new skills. The role of education in changing perspectives and recreating narratives that will enable equitable knowledge transfer and co-creation of new ideas is vital. The interactive learning platform will deliver a curriculum of the latest progressive perspectives and practical application to accelerate learning amongst DMO professionals, and equip a new generation of business leaders who are adept, skilled, resilient, responsive - able and who have a healthy dose of fearlessness.

 The ultimate goal of the GDS-Academy is to enable positive social, environmental and economic regeneration through tourism and events. It is the DMO professionals who co-create these events and promote tourist destinations so their leadership and enhanced learning will be the driving force for change based on a refreshed understanding of what it will take for the sector to thrive.

By using regenerative frameworks and fostering networking and collaboration, the GDS-Academy will bring much needed new learning to enable destination professionals to adapt to the ever-evolving conditions brought upon by massive shifts in the sector so deeply affected by the global pandemic.

The GDS-Academy offers education as open-enrolment online classes for professionals, and online/hybrid learning for organisations and destinations. The two initial formats are:

  • The GDS – ICCA - ECM Certificate in Regenerative Destination Management:

This powerful 16-week learning journey is designed to help experienced destination professionals to rethink, reimagine and redesign their destination’s tourism and events strategy.

  • Masterclasses are four module sessions that are action focused, deep-dive learning experiences created to enhance skills and capacity in various critical subjects:

- Impact Strategy and Measurement;
- Planning for Recovery and Resilience;
- Regenerative Event Management;
- Storytelling for Regeneration. 

All Masterclasses are delivered in partnership with education partners Travel Foundation and #Meet4Impact

The faculty are experts in sustainable destination management and thought leaders in regenerative management practices and communications. Together they facilitate dynamic learning experiences that accelerate professional growth using design thinking processes that are immersive, engaging and fun. 

The GDS-Academy is brought to you as a dynamic collaboration with ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association) and ECM (European Cities Marketing) who are the strategic and certificate partners. 

Guy Bigwood, the managing director of the GDS-Movement has long held the dream of creating an academy that provides unique and specialised learning to service the needs of the destination marketing and management organisations. Regenerative tourism models have infinite promise and teaching how to achieve them is a priority. This milestone is a result of the deep commitment and great collaboration with partners at ICCA, ECM, Travel Foundation and #Meet4Impact 

Senthil Gopinath, ICCA CEO, recognises that sustainability is simply essential for the future of our industry. As such, it is vital that the association meetings community takes an active role in developing and implementing sustainable event strategies that are of the highest standards and fully aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. 

Petra Stušek, president of European Cities Marketing and CEO of Ljubljana Tourism is in full support of the GDS Academy and they are delighted to partner with the GDS-Movement to develop an inspiring, inclusive, positive transformation for a more resilient economy, society and future. The GDS-Academy rounds off the activities and projects of the ECM Sustainability Knowledge Group which has positively contributed to the development of the DMOs of tomorrow as well as sustainable urban tourism destinations.

#Meet4Impact is a partner on the Impact Masterclass for DMOs and this offers a unique opportunity to join forces with the best-in-class in destination sustainability. This knowledge transfer will contribute to DMOs developing a purposeful pathway towards social and environmental regeneration through the visitor economy.

Travel Foundation also joins the faculty and will offer unique perspectives and considerable expertise and experience to help destinations plan and deliver bold recovery plans and strategies. This helps to future fit and enables challenges that puts people and the planet front and centre, to be met.

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