TourCert Journal

Initiative of Excellence – Starting signal for a regular exchange of sustainable destinations

Eine Bank im nördlichen Schwarzwald


Sustainable destinations from Germany exchanged ideas at a network event in the Northern Black Forest. The foundation of an “Initiative of Excellence” is planned.

On Tuesday, 4 December 2018, TourCert, together with kate Ecology & Development e.V. and Tourismus GmbH Nördlicher Schwarzwald (DMO of the Northern Black Forest) invited tourism experts and destination managers from all around Germany to the network event “Excellence Initiative Sustainable Destinations – Shaping Tomorrow’s Tourism Together” in Bad Herrenalb.

The event was created because sustainably committed destinations always have to struggle with similar challenges. Many sustainability measures lack practical experience, best practices are difficult to find and the complexity of sustainability issues often causes uncertainty at destination level. The network event was born out of the desire of the destinations to create a platform for exchange.

Partner Excellenzinitiative - Kate, Nördlicher Schwarzwald, Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung

The event is intended as a prelude to a regular exchange of experiences and is intended to encourage the creation of a network of sustainably committed destinations. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030 with a special focus on SDGs 8, 12, 16 and 17 provided the framework for action. The group of participants included representatives of four state marketing organisations, fourteen destination management organisations, seven associations and other institutions as well as the TourCert Team Stuttgart, Berlin and Cologne.

Martin Balaš, organiser and moderator of the event, welcomed the guests and presented the daily program. The hosts René Skiba, Managing Director of Tourismus GmbH Nördlicher Schwarzwald, and Sabine Zenker, City Treasurer of Bad Herrenalb, also addressed the participants with welcoming words and emphasized the importance of tourism for the region, which, according to Skiba, is “written into the ancestral book” of the Black Forest.

Begrüßung der TeilnehmerInnen
Martin Balaš wecloming the participants

The network event then started with short statements on the content, such as the duration of an elevator ride (“Elevator Pitches”), on the questions “What significance does sustainability have in German tourism?” and “How do you contribute to it as an institution?”. In preparation for the event, the questions were given to the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, the German Tourism Association (Deutscher Tourismusverband e.V.), the Ministry of Justice and for Europe of Baden-Württemberg and the Cluster Management Tourism Schleswig-Holstein and presented in plenary sessions or in a short video message. The institutions agreed that the sustainable orientation of tourism in Germany is of enormous importance and that tourism must be made sustainable together.

Kim Hartwig, Clustermanagement Tourismus Schleswig-Holstein, sendet eine Videobotschaft
Kim Hartwig, Cluster Management Tourism Schleswig-Holstein, sent a video message

Afterwards, four practical impulses provided the participants with plenty of input and inspiration for their daily work in the destinations. Birgit Grauvogel, Managing Director of the Saarland Tourism Board, gave with her impulse entitled “The (new) role of the DMO as a management organisation for the implementation of sustainability. What are the strategic and personnel requirements?” (SDG 16) an insight into local sustainability work and revealed strategic success factors. The host, René Skiba, took the participants on a trip to the Black Forest and to his touristic products. He spoke about the question “How can and should sustainability be made tangible by means of products and services? (SDG 12). Yvonne Bethage, Sustainability Manager of Saxon Switzerland (Sächsische Schweiz e.V.) and Imke Gessinger, Project Manager & Assistant to the Managing Director of Ostseefjord Schlei GmbH, subsequently reported in a joint impulse on the particularly important question of how service providers in the destinations can be activated for sustainability. Regarding the planned establishment of a network, the Initiative of Excellence for Sustainable Destinations, Dr. Peter Zimmer, Managing Partner of TourCert, explained the potential of cooperation and networks as the last impulse before lunch.

The afternoon was almost entirely dedicated to open exchange in small groups. Questions around the three topics of the morning impulse lectures “The role of the DMO”, “Making sustainability tangible” and “Activation of the service providers” were first discussed in smaller discussion groups and the results were then presented in the plenum.

Die Ergebnisse der Kleingruppen werden im Plenum präsentiert
Results of the small discussion groups were presented in the plenum

As the last content-related point, decisive questions concerning the planned establishment of a network for sustainable destinations were put to the participants. In small groups, they dealt with questions such as “What are the main content areas of such a network?”, “What network formats and structures are desired?”, “What prerequisites for participation should apply?” and “Who can be considered as a network carrier? The exchange and discussion in the groups laid the foundations for a network concept following the event and the majority of the participating destinations already gave a clear positive signal for participation in the “Initiative of Excellence”.

The event ended with a summary of the results of the day and an outlook on the planned establishment of the network. Even after the closing remarks of Martin Balàš, there was a lively dialogue and exchange of business cards. The day provided the participating destinations, but also the TourCert team, with a lot of valuable input. We are looking forward to further developments and will keep you up to date.

The kick-off event was financially supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Agenda 2030, Initiative of Excellence, Sustainable Destinations, Sustainable Destinations