As reported at various occasions, the Cabildo of Gran Canaria has recently announced their vision of developing into an Eco-Island by aligning all present and future political goals with the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

We check In which of the 17 SDGs we find most overlaps with the MICE industry and how can these topics play a role in the decision-making for a conference destination.

To recall: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been established in 2015 by the UN as a universal framework for a better future for humankind and the planet – reaching across all economic, ethic, natural and social segments of existence. They shall help states, civil society, and private sector to guide and measure their contributions to sustainable development towards 2030. The concept is pragmatic and based on collaboration and partnership to help make the appropriate and right choices to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations.

When we felt the urgency for changes then — nobody could foresee the massive acceleration of changes caused by a pandemic. Changes, which cannot be circumvented. Islands are particularly exposed to the climate crisis (rising sea levels, drought, dependence on imports, etc.) and often consist of sensitive ecosystems.

“Tourism” with all its segments has so far meant rather carefree growth, and seemed to be a bubbling and never-ending source of income to many. The pandemic however has made it clear to most, that the limits of growth and infinite flexibility of resources have been reached, re-thinking has to take place now.

Large-scale changes are only possible in collaboration with everyone —- it is worth the effort looking closer into what will be the most direct impact on tourism* and the logistics for conferences and events.

“Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.”

The following examples show some interaction between SDGs and tourism/conferences, and translate them directly into relevant strategic initiatives in Gran Canaria:

(The quotation marks quote the context between SDGs and Tourism, taken from

 SDG 2 – Zero Hunger

“Tourism can spur sustainable agriculture by promoting the production and supplies to hotels, and sales of local products to tourists. Agro-tourism can generate additional income while enhancing the value of the tourism experience.”

Sustainable production of food items and agriculture are very important for Gran Canaria. Sustainable Agriculture helps biodiversity and quality of food items. The unique nature can be preserved through reforestation programs and sustainable water resources can help production to be commercially profitable. New lines of income can be generated and dependency on imports will be reduced. A label for hotels and gastronomy will be introduced for using and preparing local food products.

Typical food items can also make nice souvenirs and work for congress and event organizers as non-travel incentive campaign tools.

SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation

“Tourism investment requirement for providing utilities can play a critical role in achieving water access and security, as well as hygiene and sanitation for all. The efficient use of water in tourism, pollution control and technology efficiency can be key to safeguarding our most precious resource.”

Water is a precious element in dry and sunny areas like the Canary Islands. By exploring and using alternative water sources (like in the life nieblas project) forests and agriculture can be supported. A careful consumption and technology to save and sanitize water, circular use and other instruments in smart city developments are not only necessary for tourists or conference attendees, but for all the society.

SDG 7  Affordable and clean Energy

“As a sector, which is energy intensive, tourism can accelerate the shift towards increased renewable energy shares in the global energy mix. By promoting investments in clean energy sources, tourism can help to reduce green house gases, mitigate climate change and contribute to access of energy for all.”

There are many initiatives in Gran Canaria. Ocean energy, wind energy and solar energy are part of the overall goal to reduce climate emissions by 55 % in 2030. E-mobility is a big topic – Las Palmas is part of the CIVITAS initiative since 2016 and presently applies for special EU funds with support of the Government of all the Canary Islands to further develop their e-guagua (e-buses) project, the GuaGuas for all.

The Cabildo has created a company dedicated to renewable energies and climate: the Island Energy Council, from scratch.

As part of the TreeMAC project, which is led by Gran Canaria (as a lead partner of MAC-CLIMA, a project dedicated to improving climate change adaptation policies in Macaronesia*), an observatory for climate change was built and an associated training centre is planned.

SDG 9 – Industry Innovation And Infrastructure

“Tourism development relies on good public and private infrastructure. The sector can influence public policy for infrastructure upgrade and retrofit, making them more sustainable, innovative and resource-efficient and moving towards low carbon growth, thus attracting tourists and other sources of foreign investment.”

Innovation in Gran Canaria includes a high level of audiovisual services/LED technology, technical equipment for hybrid events, Global Nomad programs, e-mobility, just to name a few.

“Gran Canaria Isla Intelligente” Project :  The Smart Gran Canaria Initiative (GCII) is promoted by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and seeks to improve public management and provide new services to citizens with the use of technologies. It is managed by the Ministry of Economic Development, Energy Sovereignty, Climate and Knowledge, the Society for the Economic Promotion of Gran Canaria (SPEGC) and the Society for the Development of Telecommunications of Gran Canaria (SODETEGC), in collaboration with the different sectoral areas of the Cabildo and the city councils.

SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities And Communities

“Tourism can advance urban infrastructure and accessibility, promote regeneration and preserve cultural and natural heritage, assets on which tourism depends. Investment in green infrastructure (more efficient transport, reduced air pollution) should result in smarter and greener cities for, not only residents but also tourists.”

As part of the EU Green Deal Call, Gran Canaria applied for one of a total of 5 possible projects in the context of the circular economy. This project, called CirTourLab —Circular Tourism Laboratory aims to make the island’s tourism industry fit for the future.

The main focus here is on water and wastewater management, alternative energy sources and, above all, the increased use of local agricultural products. Food grown or produced locally is of high quality and makes the island less dependent on imports. Therefore, food cultivation will be promoted more strongly and the purchase of the products by restaurants and hotels is to be ensured. This is the only way to move from currently 85% imported food to a more climate-friendly solution through more self-sufficiency.

SDG 13 – Climate Action

“Tourism contributes to and is affected by climate change. Tourism stakeholders should play a leading role in the global response to climate change. By reducing its carbon footprint, in the transport and accommodation sector, tourism can benefit from low carbon growth and help tackle one of the most pressing challenges of our time.”

The Soclimpact Project is based in Gran Canaria and studies the impact of climate change on European Islands and mitigation policies.

SDG 14 – Life Below Water

“Coastal and maritime tourism rely on healthy marine ecosystems. Tourism development must be a part of Integrated Coastal Zone Management in order to help conserve and preserve fragile marine ecosystems and serve as a vehicle to promote a blue economy, contributing to the sustainable use of marine resources.”

#BlueEconomy in Gran Canaria: seaweed, aquaculture, port, marine transport – like the Bioasis Project: bluebiotechnology and aquaculture – The Bioasis initiative brings together a set of actions aimed at the development of Marine Biotechnology and Aquaculture, promoting experimental research and the development of companies related to this sector on the island of Gran Canaria.

This initiative is promoted by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria through the Society for the Economic Promotion of Gran Canaria, in collaboration with the Technological Institute of the Canary Islands (ITC), the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, through the Banco Español de Algas and the ECOAGUA University Institute, and the ULPGC Science and Technology Park Foundation.

If you want to know more about interrelations between all 17 SDGS and tourism issues please check the SDG wheel

Text: Johanna Fischer, tmf dialogue Knowledge Destinations

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*We use the term “tourism” in the text because all the available information of UN and UNWTO are relating to tourism and not to conferences in particular.