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Devoted to future challenges for smart cities, green meetings and sustainable tourism is the spring meeting of Europe Cities Marketing (ECM), which improves the competitiveness and performance of cities in Europe. ECN 022014_GRN_ECM-Belfast-Conference-(Rotator)

ECM’s spring meeting in Belfast occurs from Feb. 26-28, with a seminar day being orchestrated by Martin Lewis, managing editor of M&IT Magazine and CAT Publications.

“The real challenge that lies ahead is to put sustainability and the city very high up on the agenda. Cities have the ability to ‘turbo-charge’ ideas and put real action in place on the ground very quickly working with their local stakeholders,” said Ignasi de Delàs, president, ECM. “Cities need to share strategies, knowledge and best-practice more rather than waiting for national strategies and policies in response to environmental and social challenges currently considered in the whole planet and the tourism sector in particular.”

Green initiatives and eco-tourism seem to fit better with the idea of conserving and protecting the natural environment rather than urban spaces. National institutions are often the ones charged with providing policies, platforms, agendas and legislation to steer the way through one of the most pressing challenges of the times. However, sustainability is much more than green initiatives.

Two critical factors challenge this approach. Firstly, the world is becoming urban very quickly. According to the United Nations, 52 percent of the world lives in cities, and by 2020, 75 percent will do so. Secondly, city tourism has become the dominant factor in European tourism. Since 2002, the growth in bed-nights to cities has grown exponentially compared to bed-nights to countries, which have matured.

According to a 2013 European Cities Marketing member survey, 89 percent of its city members consider sustainability to be a critical issue, and 58 percent are working on specific sustainability projects. A further 48 percent consider sustainability to be a key part of their Unique Selling Proposition.

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