Annika Hallman: ‘It is business-savvy to be sustainable’


Annika Hallman, director of the Gothenburg Convention Bureau, believes that increased tourism must benefit the inhabitants of the city. (Photo courtesy of GCB)

By Lane Nieset

Sustainability is a concept that’s visible in every aspect of the meetings industry, from F&B to host cities. One example of the latter is Gothenburg, Sweden. For the third time, the Gothenburg Convention Bureau won the Global Destination Sustainability Index Leadership Award at the ICCA Congress. The event was recently held in Dubai.

We caught up with Annika Hallman, director of the Gothenburg Convention Bureau, to hear how having a blueprint for sustainability can set a destination above the rest and how others can follow Gothenburg’s lead.

How has Gothenburg emerged as a business destination that’s sustainable and business savvy?

It is business-savvy to be sustainable. You can have a thriving business climate and at the same time develop innovative sustainable solutions. There’s no contradiction. Gothenburg is also blessed with big companies and small entrepreneurs working side-by-side with the municipality and the academia on these issues.

What would you advise other cities who are looking to become more sustainable despite issues such as over-tourism?

A plain answer is that increased tourism must benefit the inhabitants of the city. All destination organisations should think more in terms of balanced growth, not just volume. This also means you must consider how effectively the city recycles and disposes of waste, environmental certification of hotels and restaurants, emission of greenhouse gases, accessibility, the traffic situation, and whether both public and private stakeholders have sustainability strategies in place.

What are some of the main challenges Gothenburg had to overcome and what were a few of the solutions?

The big challenge was to convince all stakeholders to strive for a common goal, which did not directly give return on investment. Gothenburg benefits from a longstanding culture of collaboration, which helped. It was an important moment when a group of hotels decided to certify their companies as environmentally friendly — they became role models. Interaction built on mutual understanding between companies and authorities was also a key step.

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