Cork has made the Top 20 official list of sustainable destinations in the world. The news was announced this week by the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), the world’s largest destination sustainability ranking programme. Other destinations who secured a top 20 place include Brussels, Sydney, Zurich, Belfast, Kerry and Helsinki. The news is very timely coming in the week of COP 26, the UN Climate Change Conference and highlights the Cork Tourism Industry’s focus on improving destination sustainability in the region. The submission was made by Visit Cork, the official tourism body for the Cork region, incorporating both leisure (Pure Cork) and business tourism (Cork Convention Bureau) in a single voice. 

Cork initially entered the GDS-Index in 2018 with an aim to be recognised as a leading destination in social, environmental and economic sustainability for both business and leisure tourism. Since then Visit Cork has continually worked with its many industry partners in improving Cork’s standing within the index, from an initial score of 42.3% in 2018 to a high of 71% in 2021. This places Cork in an impressive 18th place among a total of 73 other destinations and it is hoped that this good standing within the index will help promote Cork as a ‘green’ destination to both sustainably conscious tourists and event planners. More information on the Top 20 can be found through this link:

‘The submission was very much a collaborative effort with Failte Ireland leading the way by initially engaging with the GDS-Movement and introducing the Convention Bureaux of Ireland to the concept in 2018. The process involved a year-long effort of collating data and information and is very reliant on the support of key stakeholders, especially Cork City and County Council. Other partners involved were Cork Airport, Cork Chamber, the Universities, Bus Eireann, Irish Rail and the Cork hotels who collaborated successfully to ensure that the submission would enhance our sustainability credentials’ according to Seamus Heaney Head of Visit Cork.

There have been a number of recent Visit Cork led initiatives which have contributed to Cork’s improving rank within the index. Starting with the creation of the Visit Cork Sustainability Strategy in 2020 which set out an action plan for increasing sustainability throughout Cork tourism and events by working with the industry. This in-turn has brought about projects such as increasing the number of Cork Convention Bureau Member hotels with active third-party sustainability certification by offering a hugely subsidised accreditation programme in partnership with Green Hospitality. This has had the effect of increasing the number of member hotels with active accreditation from just 23% in 2020 to 70% in 2021.

Visit Cork also launched a yearly Green Award to encourage and reward Cork tourism businesses with a commitment to operating sustainably. In December 2020, the inaugural award was won by Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens in Clonakilty for their continual work on sustainable initiatives throughout the year including an extensive tree planting programme. The submission process for the 2021 award is now open to Cork tourism businesses, with a winner being chosen during the Visit Cork ‘Pure Green’ week coming up later this month.

Ger O’Mahoney, Chairman of Visit Cork, welcomed the GDS-Index announcement for 2021 and said the result will hugely encourage tourism providers in the region to adopt, promote and recognise responsible and regenerative practices. The increasing public and political focus on equality, diversity, and climate change have had a massive positive impact on destinations and there is a requirement now to prove ourselves as being sustainability focused on the international stage. Visit Cork strives to place sustainable tourism at the heart of the region’s overall development.

The Visit Cork Sustainability Strategy 2020 – 2023 outlined a vision and action plan for increasing sustainability throughout Cork tourism and events by working with the industry to produce and develop more sustainable outcomes. As part of this commitment to sustainability a number of KPIs were included in the strategy to track the performance of Visit Cork in reaching these sustainability goals.

Below is a graphical dashboard which displays Visit Cork’s performance on the KPIs originally set out in the Visit Cork Sustainability Strategy 2020 – 2023 (with green signifying ‘Complete’, amber signifying ‘In Progress’ and red signifying ‘Not Complete’):

And for the full Visit Cork Sustainability Performance Report 2020 – 2021 click HERE or below:

Cork Convention Bureau (CCB), in its role as an International Destination Management Organisation, is hugely aware of the demands for environmental best practice within the MICE industry. To continually improve, we have needed to ensure our member hotels are third-party accredited for sustainability certification. Recently 8 CCB Member Hotels achieved third-party sustainability certification through the Green Hospitality Awards programme and an Eco-label audit which was heavily subsidised by CCB.

Key benefits of the programme:

  • Calculate individual MICE event carbon footprints – enabling reporting and/or offsetting – using the International Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) methodology
  • Create KPI’s for Energy, Water, Waste – allowing for quantifiable target setting
  • Identify cost saving opportunities

We are delighted that 8 of our member hotels have recently achieved the Green Hospitality Award Eco-label through this programme and joined many of our other hotel members in holding third-party accredited sustainability certification.

You can now find all our members who are ‘committed’ to sustainability (have taken part in sustainability training) or ‘engaged’ in sustainability (hold third-party accredited sustainability certification) on our Hotel Members page: 

In March 2020, University College Cork celebrated 10 years since becoming the first University in the world to be awarded a Green Flag from the Foundation for Environmental Education. Green Campus involves a seven-step programme and a cycle of continual improvement. Campuses are fully reassessed, by a panel of external experts, every 3 years. UCC has successfully renewed it’s Green Flag 4 times.

The Green Campus Programme in UCC has evolved significantly since its inception. Strong commitment and support from the highest levels in the university has contributed to embedding sustainability across our operations, teaching, research and outreach. The student-led Green Campus Committee, chaired by the Student’s Union Deputy President, meets regularly to discuss ideas and campaigns to improve our campus. These meetings feed into biannual meetings of the Green Campus Forum, which takes its membership from across all functions within the University. The forum ensures continuity and strategic oversight throughout the academic cycle.

Some of UCC’s Green Wins during this time include:

For more information on UCC’s sustainable initiatives click HERE.


In December 2020, the inaugural Visit Cork Green Award was awarded to Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens in Clonakilty for their continual work on sustainable initiatives throughout the year.

This Award was set up to encourage and reward our tourism partners who made a commitment to operating sustainably and in 2020 we were delighted to present it to Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens.

Michael O’Neill and his team at the hotel deserve huge credit for there work on sustainability there including:

  • Using solar panels for hot water and electricity
  • Using their own well for water
  • Growing their own food
  • Planting 3,000 trees, as part of a larger project to plant 20,000 trees all around Clonakilty in 2020

Michael O’Neill manager of Fernhill House Hotel & Gardens receiving his award from Evelyn O’Sullivan and Jeremy Murray of Visit Cork

The submission process for the Visit Cork Green award 2021 is now open to all Cork tourism businesses, who can submit an application for the award by clicking HERE.

The 5-Star Castlemartyr Resort are delighted to announce a new partnership with the reforestation non-profit One Tree Planted, with the goal of further increasing the Resort’s commitment to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way. The partnership will see Castlemartyr Resort aid in thousands of trees planted around the world every year.

Castlemartyr Resort General Manager, Brendan Comerford (right), pictured with Castlemartyr Resort Golf Course Superintendent, Paudie O’Sullivan (left), marking the start of the new partnership

About Castlemartyr Resort:

Situated on 220 acres of woodlands and grounds in East Cork, Castlemartyr Resort consists of a grand 17th-century country manor house that sits adjacent to the ruins of an 800-year-old-castle.

With a storied history that includes Strongbow, Water Raleigh, the Knight’s Templar and more, the Castlemartyr Resort was officially opened for guests in 2008, with over 100 guest rooms and suites, along with 47 luxury self-catering lodges.

About One Tree Planted:

One Tree Planted’s reforestation projects span the globe and are done in partnership with local communities and knowledgeable experts to create an impact for nature, people, and wildlife. Reforestation helps to rebuild forests after fires and floods, provide jobs for social impact, and restore biodiversity. Many projects have overlapping objectives, creating a combination of benefits that contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at One Tree Planted is a 501(c)(3) non-profit on a mission to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees.

The Partnership:

As part of the organisations ‘One for One’ initiative, Castlemartyr Resort’s partnership with One Tree Planted will see a number of measures being introduced.

  • A tree will be planted for all delegates and attendees at corporate and business events taking part at Castlemartyr Resort, including remote attendees taking part in the Resort’s new ‘Hybrid Events’ offering
  • Guests booking a room directly with the hotel will be offered the chance to plant a tree as part of the booking process
  • Couples looking to celebrate their wedding at the Resort will also have the option to plant a tree for all of their guests, complete with a souvenir certificate to mark their special day

Speaking on the news, Castlemartyr Resort General Manager, Brendan Comerford, said, “We are delighted to announce our partnership with One Tree Planted as the latest step in our ongoing commitment to further improve and focus our environmental efforts. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful woodlands and wildlife and are keenly aware of our responsibilities, with One Tree Planted a perfect fit. 2019 saw the establishment of our in-house ‘Green Team’, with several initiatives undertaken since then, including migrating from traditional to LED lighting throughout the Resort, the introduction of beehives to the grounds, and many more projects on the horizon.”

For more information on the work being undertaken at Castlemartyr Resort visit or call 021 421 9000.

Event: Wind Energy Science Conference (WESC)

Location: University College Cork

Date: 16th – 20th June 2019

Delegates: 800

Conference Value: €1,280,000

In 2019, Cork hosted The Wind Energy Science Conference (WESC), which was the largest scientific conference ever held in Cork, with 800 international delegates attending 70 talks over 4 days on the UCC campus. Which equates to a total value of over €1.2 million for the local economy.

The 2019 WESC was the first time this biennial conference had taken place outside mainland Europe and it also managed to more than double the number of delegates by restructuring the conference, broadening its themes, and tapping into strong academic networks across Europe. The ground-breaking research being carried out by UCC and Ireland as a destination were also huge selling points for the international delegates.


On holding the event in Cork, Conference Ambassador Dr. Cian Desmond said:

“WESC 2019 stands out as a landmark conference in the wind energy science world. I feel that a large part of this success was down to Cork as a destination. The quality of venues, the welcome and the craic live long in the memories of all delegates.”