Torre Iberdrola, first partner company of Bilbao Convention Bureau to be Biosphere certified


Only a few months ago, Bilbao Convention Bureau started the joint certification process accompanied by Biosphere to audit their commitment and that of their partner companies to the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. And the programme has already proven a success with the certification of Torre Iberdrola, which has become the first Biosphere Certified venue in Bilbao.

Torre Iberdrola’s certification is a significant acknowledgement of their efforts in terms of sustainability and CSR, and comes in addition to the prestigious LEED CS2 Platinum Certification obtained in 2012.

Continuous participation

In addition to Torre Iberdrola, Bilbao Convention Bureau and ten of its associated companies are in the process of obtaining certification with Biosphere, an internationally recognised entity audited by an independent third party. Bilbao Convention Bureau offers financial support and advice and keeps its Biosphere certification programme open to all its partners, no matter what sector they are from.

Bilbao Convention Bureau meets bike tour operators from all over Europe to explore new paths of collaboration


As part of the 10th Cycle Cities Symposium, the oldest networking event for bike tour operators, which took place in Bilbao between 26 and 28 February, the director of Bilbao Convention Bureau, Kepa Olabarrieta, presented a session on the experience of the city in establishing fruitful partnerships between tour operators, government entities and local tourism associations.

The meeting was attended by 70 tour operators, bike-focussed hotels, cycling and travel brands and industry professionals from 30 European countries invited by the Cycle Cities network in collaboration with the local operator Tourne Bilbao. The session was participatory in design and explored different ways of collaboration, effective approaches for engaging with local tourism associations and the increasing appeal of cycling tourism in a city with a strong attachment to the sport.

Rheumatology specialists and Bilbao city council committed to the environment to care for population’s health


More than 350 specialists travelled to Bilbao for the ‘9th Symposium on Autoimmune Diseases’ organised by the Spanish Rheumatology Society (SER) in the city on 16 and 17 February. In light of SER’s commitment to the environment, the Society sought to convert the negative impact of the conference into a positive one, by planting specimens of Quercus robur in Etxebarria Park, in collaboration with Bilbao City Council.

The global population is increasingly concentrated in urban zones. Recurring heatwaves are evidence of how city centres heat up more than the outskirts. An effect that could be mitigated with more trees and green zones. Parks and woodland are cooler than paved areas. In addition, the shade of the trees offers protection from the sun’s rays, a serious problem for patients with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome, as Dr. Vegas points out: “The risks for patients with systemic lupus eritematoso when exposed to ultraviolet light, resulting in increased photosensitivity and systemic activity, are well known”.

The collaboration between the Spanish Rheumatology Society, Bilbao City Council and the Euskadi Rheumatology Society is helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) established by the Agenda 2030, a legacy of much importance for the three institutions.

Bilbao presents campaign linking the use of bikes with tree-planting


This initiative aims to combine two activities that significantly contribute to sustainable development. Namely, the need to increase the number of trees to boost CO2 absorption in the atmosphere and the use of bikes as a healthy and sustainable means of transport.

The initiative is the result of an agreement between the Area of Mobility and Sustainability of Bilbao City Council, through BilbaoBizi, and the Lurgaia Fundazioa Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that works on the restoration and conservation of ecosystems, and in particular, of woodlands.

The campaign, backed by Iberdrola, involves the planting of one tree, provided by the Lurgaia Foundation, for every two thousand bikes rented from BilbaoBizi. This is the first initiative of this type carried out by a public bike rental service in Spain.

Bilbao Convention Bureau and associates start certification process under Biosphere certification mark


This was one of the major conclusions of the Workshop on Sustainable Events organised last year by Bilbao Convention Bureau in collaboration with Global Destination Sustainability Movement and it has finally come true. The organisation has started a joint certification process accompanied by Biosphere, an international reference that audits a tourism destination or company’s commitment to adopting measures in support of the 2023 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals. Through the same, Bilbao Convention Bureau and ten partner companies of different types (venues, hotels, incoming agencies, PCOs, hotels…) have started the process for measuring and improving their alignment, although the programme remains open to future incorporations, offering financial support and advice throughout the process.


The Biosphere certification is recognised internationally and audited by an independent third party. It is awarded by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) (a non-profit NGO linked to UNESCO and a member of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)) and covers all the sectors in the tourism value chain.


Via a user-friendly and intuitive digital platform, the programme offers the opportunity to access a process of continuous improvement, developing a “Biosphere Sustainability Plan” adapted and personalised to the needs of each company, through the selection of hundreds of sustainable measures and activities.

Bilbao becomes seventh best medium-size city in the world in global destination sustainability index


Bilbao has become the seventh best city in the world in the Global Destination Sustainability Index, where, this year, it has risen to 24th position. It is the first city in Spain to appear in this international ranking of the 100 cities most committed to the creation of joint strategies with respect to social, economic and environmental sustainability.


This result implies a climb of nine positions with respect to 2022 and a huge leap from the 42nd position obtained in 2021, the year in which Bilbao joined Global Destination Sustainability.

Bilbao presents “metrominute”, the map showing the main points of the city to encourage more pedestrian travel


The Area of Mobility and Sustainability of Bilbao City Council are not content with the high number of journeys made on foot, 65% of all the internal journeys made every day in the city. To step up this excellent figure, the Deputy Mayor and Councillor for the Area, Nora Abete, today presented “Metrominute”, the map that measures the distances and times taken to walk between the main points of the city. This comes as part of the programme of activities organised for European Mobility Week (SEM 2023).

Metrominute is a synoptic map that measures the distances and times taken to walk between several points of each city. The map shows the key points in each city (services, squares, parks, neighbourhood centres…) and the distance between them, expressed in metres and in minutes. It uses the visual codes of metro maps, in a nod to an important mode of transport in big cities, but applied to pedestrian travel.

Bilbao is committed to an Aste Nagusia that is increasingly sustainable and focused on meeting sustainable development goals (SDGs)


The Bilbao City Council is progressing in preparing the next edition of Aste Nagusia. This multitudinous event has the challenge and aspiration of being increasingly sustainable. This year will once more be in line with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present in the 2030 Agenda, that will be spearheading for a second time the Txikigune (kids space) in Doña Casilda Park.


From 20 to 27 August, children up to 12 will learn about values in a playful, dynamic and participatory way. They will learn about the prevention and repair of environmental disasters.

Bilbao wins the Eurocities 2023 award for its guided tours project on cultural diversity and migration Diversitours / Aniztasuna Tours


The intercultural community project of virtual and face-to-face guided tours Diversitours/Aniztasuna Tours received yesterday during the Brussels Urban Summit the eurocities 2023 network award in the category “Moving from global human mobility to local community cohesion”. The project aims to eradicate migration stereotypes by bringing participants closer to spaces and projects in three Bilbao neighbourhoods with a significant history of migration and intercultural coexistence. It is promoted by Bilbao City Council’s Area of Equality, Coexistence, Cooperation and Immigration, together with the social entities KOOP SF34 and Moviltik.

New partnership with Theodora Children’s Charity, wich brings smiles to children in hospitals


Yesterday, within the framework of the fam trip that Bilbao Convention Bureau is organising with agents and promoters from the United States and Canada, Bilbao Convention Bureau launched its collaboration with Theodora Children’s Charity an international organisation that strives to humanise the experience of children admitted to hospital, including Basurto Hospital in Bilbao.

During a pleasant coffee break on the terrace of the Gran Hotel Domine, the group was visited by “Dr. Gogó”, who spoke about her experience visiting, playing with and accompanying children in hospital situations and the therapeutic importance of de-dramatising, soothing and making their stay as pleasant as possible. To contribute to improving this problem, the participants designed their own solidarity pyjamas to surprise a “young patient” in Bilbao on his/her next hospital stay.


Helping to communicate and raise awareness of more sustainable event programmes


For several years now, Bilbao Convention Bureau has been applying specific social and environmental responsibility proposals to its programme of different fam trips in the city: getting around on foot or by the least polluting means of transport available, calculation and offsetting of the carbon footprint, FLOSS food (fresh, local, organic, sustainable and seasonal products), commitment to environmental and cultural heritage, approach to the most sustainable MICE proposals, participation in local volunteer activities…

As of today, this whole experience will be introduced on a new fam trip organised in conjunction with Tourspain, with agents and promoters from the United States and Canada. As a new feature, the programme documentation will include a section on “Environmental Commitment”, with detailed information on each of the emission reduction and offsetting measures and on the sustainable projects and entities that will be visited. A small gesture to raise awareness among professionals in the sector and to highlight the work of the most committed local actors.


Bilbao presents the “Sustainable Bilbao: 2030 Agenda and SDGs” action plan, its commitment to sustainable human development


Bilbao City Council has publicly presented “Sustainable Bilbao: 2030 Agenda and SDGs”, the Action Plan for the localisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the city.

Since 2021, the municipal areas have been participating in this cross-cutting work with the collaboration of UN ETXEA and Coop&Co, in order to “identify the day-to-day actions promoted by institutions, private organisations and citizens themselves, in relation to the values and SDGs, which helps move towards a municipality that is increasingly sustainable, fair, supportive, inclusive, plural and diverse”, explained Mayor Juan Mari Aburto, who presided over the event.

New indigenous trees in the Urdaibai Bioesphere Reserve to offset the emissions of a fam trip


Bilbao Convention Bureau has just received the CO2 absorption certificate for the 3,607 teCO2 emitted last summer as a result of the fam trip with French agents organised in collaboration with the Tourist Office of Spain in Paris. As the dates were not optimal for the planting of new specimens, it was not possible to involve the group as on other occasions and it was Impredecible Basoa, the certifying body, who took on the task.

More specifically, eleven indigenous trees have been planted in Muniketagana, in the heart of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, in a permanent collaborative forest of carbon footprint absorption transfer. The CO2 absorbed by these specimens over 40 years will offset the group’s emissions, as well as promoting the biodiversity of one of our richest and most privileged natural environments.


Around twenty hotels in Bilbao are taking part in a City Council pilot project for waste collection aimed at large producers


Following the session organised by the Bilbao Convention Bureau on 23rd January, a total of twenty-one hotels in the city have already begun training in order to take part in a Bilbao City Council pilot programme organised by the Department of Services and Quality of Life for door-to-door waste collection aimed at large-scale producers.

Participation in the programme will enable hotels to obtain accurate and traceable information on the volume and nature of the waste they generate, enabling them to make the best decisions for its treatment and reduction.


Workshop of sustainable events


The renowned expert in the creation of sustainable destinations, Guy Bigwood, founder of the Global Destinations Sustainability Index, and the specialist in accessible and sustainable tourism, Mónica Molina, will guide us in this practical session, in which we will analyse examples of best practices in sustainable event management, resolve our day-to-day questions, draw up a mapping of sustainable initiatives in Bilbao and work in groups to design our own programme for a congress that complies with sustainability.


BEC will host the Innovate4Climate 2023 conference


As a result of the joint work of the Bilbao Convention Bureau and BEC, the latter will host the World Bank Group’s Innovate4Climate international conference from 23rd to 25th May. It is a top-level event where leaders from the public and private sectors will discuss the most innovative climate solutions from the fields of finance, policy and technology. This marks the return to face-to-face meetings for I4C, which attracted more than 1,200 delegates from 82 countries in its last face-to-face edition.


Presentation of Bilbao City Council’s Pilot Project to improve the collection of non-domestic waste from hotels


Marta Barco, Director of Services and Quality of Life in Bilbao City Council will present Bilbao City Council’s pilot project for door-to-door waste collection aimed at large producers to the city’s hotel sector. Inclusion in the programme will enable participating hotels to obtain accurate and traceable information on the volume and nature of the waste they generate in order to make the best decisions for its treatment and reduction.


Further progress in the Bilbao Convention Bureau’s

“zero paper” policy


In line with previous measures to reduce the use of paper in the daily activities of the Bilbao Convention Bureau, this year the Forms application will be used to fill in all the annual surveys . The measure will mean a considerable reduction in paper consumption, as this year alone Bilbao Convention Bureau will carry out more than 300 on-site surveys of delegates participating in some of the MICE meetings that will take place in the city, as well as those attending fam trips and other players involved in its promotional work.


Bilbao is making progress in measuring the carbon footprint of the city’s events sector


As part of its commitment to measuring and reducing the environmental impact of the events sector, Bilbao Convention Bureau will begin to measure the carbon emissions derived from the mobility of those attending MICE meetings in the city. It will use the “Report on the measurement of meeting tourism in the city of Bilbao” as a base, an annual study in which the sector’s other markers are already being analysed to provide information to guide the work of the public and private actors that make up the city’s meetings & events sector.

More specifically, over the course of 2023, over 300 attendees will be interviewed at around thirty professional meetings representative of Bilbao’s MICE activity. Among other questions, they should answer where they have travelled from, the chosen means of transport and the travel itinerary and whether it includes other leisure or work destinations.

All this information will enable the carbon footprint of the selected sample to be calculated, which will be extrapolated to the MICE activity as a whole in 2023 in order to obtain an initial approximation of the impact of Bilbao’s meetings sector in terms of CO2 emissions.


Bilbao presents its sustainable destination proposals as part of the IBTM 2022 programme


This Monday, the director of Bilbao Convention Bureau, Kepa Olabarrieta, took part in the Corporate Experiences Day as a guest speaker, taking place the day before IBTM 2022 where destinations and companies meet with a limited and select number of corporate buyers.

This year’s event has been organised by American Express under the common theme of sustainability in the events sector, and key trends and best practices in measuring and reducing carbon footprint were discussed throughout the event. Bilbao presented its commitment as a destination to improve sustainability, as well as the specific proposals and best practices that have enabled it to move up to 33rd place in the 2022 Global Destination Sustainability Index.


Bilbao clinched the 33rd spot in the GDS-INDEX and ranked 9th on the list of the best mid-sized cities in the world


Bilbao clinched 33rd spot in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), an international benchmarking programme for sustainable destinations for the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Events (MICE) industry. Bilbao ranked ninth among top mid-sized cities in the world. Last year, Bilbao reached 42nd place, while this year Bilbao has significantly improved its position in the sector.

The GDS-Index essentially assesses the alignment of cities with the UN 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals comprising 71 indicators. In the case of Bilbao, the improvements implemented by Bilbao Convention Bureau and those of its suppliers integrated in the Bilbao Arima Berdea permanent working commission, have been taken into account.

Integrating social sustainability and equal opportunities in a MICE programme


Bilbao Convention Bureau continues to apply social and environmental sustainability criteria to the programme of different fam trips it organises in the city. This time, it is the turn of a group of French agencies who are visiting the city this week through Tourspain. As usual, the programme prioritises walking or using the least polluting means of transport available. The carbon footprint will be calculated and offset by planting trees and restaurants with zero-km proposals have been chosen for the menus.

The programme also explores SDG 10 (equal opportunities and social inclusion) through the visit to BILBAO FORMARTE Koop.Elk.Txikia, an art school for people with disabilities whose facilities are in the city centre and interesting possibilities for the MICE sector: handmade company gifts, artistic workshops for attendees and their companions…


Elimination of the paper visiting card


This year, the Bilbao Convention Bureau has finally managed to eliminate paper visiting cards.

Until now, when the Bureau visited a conference or exhibition, it would distribute visiting cards with their contact details to customers to enable them to stay in contact with the Bureau.

However, from now on, customers can visit the Bilbao stand and scan a QR code with all the necessary details.

This is one more step in the Bureau’s digitalisation process, eliminating the physical visiting card and preventing the creation of more waste.

15th Meeting of the Association of University Conference Offices and University Foundations


Last March, the director of the Bilbao Convention Bureau accepted the invitation from Alcalá de Henares University and visited the university to talk about the transformation of the city of Bilbao in the recent years, and the major commitment made to sustainability, the visit is part of the 15th Meeting of the Association of University Conference Offices and University Foundations. From being a completely industrialised city to the city today, where the city’s face lift and its major commitment to sustainability are clearly visible, have been recognised around the world. 

Bilbao, one of the least contaminated cities in the world

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The non-profit organisation Berkeley Earth has drawn up a list of the least contaminating cities in the world, and Bilbao is one of them.

Bilbao has made it onto the Air Quality City List, that is, it is among the 40 least contaminating cities in the world. The ranking assesses the air quality by measuring the PM 2,5. The air quality in Bilbao is excellent all year round. The list can be consulted at the following link:

The legacy is confirmed as key to the events


The legacy left behind after a conference in the city is becoming more and more important. Organisers seek ways of leaving a positive impact on the destination city and this is why it is necessary to work to offer them different ways of doing so.

It would be impossible to do so without the collaboration of the destination Bureau. Therefore, with a mission more directed towards economic development than simply filling hotels, the Bilbao Convention Bureau is located in the department for economic development of the city council.

Carbon footprint calculation


The objective, always seeking sustainability at business events, is to ensure that these events do not pose a threat to the environment. That is that the events have a zero carbon footprint or at least it is minimised. This is the reason why the carbon footprint of each hotel has been calculated this year. The hotels, with the best will in the world, have provided us with the necessary details to calculate the carbon footprint of their establishments. During any business event, whether it is a meeting, a conference, an assembly or a convention, every participant leaves a carbon footprint, that is, a certain amount of tons of CO2 equivalents (teCO2).

The calculation of the carbon footprint normally considers the emissions created at the participant’s place of stay (hotel) in the destination city or in the transport used to reach and travel around the city. Thanks to the carbon footprint calculation we are aware of our impact and can take action to mitigate it, by reducing emissions or promoting initiatives to offset its effect. Some of the measures to reduce emissions include the replacement of light bulbs with low consumption bulbs, obtaining energy from renewable energy sources and the use of public transport or, failing this, the use of private electric vehicles.

Different initiatives are carried out to resolve this problem. Some of these form part of measures found in the “Impact and Legacy” section, check them out! Planting trees to offset emissions, working with the local community or cleaning and preparing forest tracks are usually the most effective. The tons of CO2 equivalents include the emissions of all greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere directly or indirectly as a result of the activity.

Three different scopes are considered:

Scope 1:

Greenhouse gas emissions from sources which belong to or are controlled by the company. The most common are the consumption of fossil fuels at fixed sources and accidental leaks of air conditioning equipment.

Scope 2:

Indirect emissions from the consumption or distribution of energy corresponding to the greenhouse gases associated with the consumption of electricity and steam generated by third parties.

Scope 3:

Emissions from the value chain of a company which are not under their control. Examples include business trips, staff travel and the use of products.

Bilbao signs up to the Glasgow declaration

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Bilbao Convention Bureau has signed up to the Glasgow declaration. Following the wave of new generations and confirming its commitment to sustainability and the environment, the Bureau has decided to measure, decarbonise, regenerate and release funding to achieve these goals.

At the same time, the Bureau will continue carrying out the measures established in the Sustainability Action Plan set out until 2027.

Bilbao ranked 42 in the Global Destination Sustainability Index


As proof of the city of Bilbao’s clear commitment to sustainability. since last year (2021), Bilbao has assumed the challenge to sign up to the GDS-Index ranking. The Global Destination Sustainability Index lists the most sustainable destinations for holding events from the MICE sector.

In its first year, Bilbao made it to a decent 42nd place in the world ranking with a final score of 60.4/100. There are four sections: environmental section (72.22/100), social section (82.5/100), suppliers (27.5/100) and management of the destination city (58.62/100).

In order to continue improving the city, this year a number of initiatives are to be promoted and set up. With these, Bilbao hopes to improve its position and climb higher in the ranking for 2022.

In comparison to other cities with similar populations, we are ranked quite close to cities who lead the way in terms of sustainability, such as Aarhus and Reykjavik. The former is the third best in the ranking and the Icelandic capital was ranked fifth. The biggest difference with these two cities lies in the Supplier section but we are clear on how to go about changing the situation.

Entrevista con el Bilbao Convention Bureau

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During the interview with Max Tourism, Kepa Olabarrieta, Director of Bilbao Convention Bureau for 12 years, describes the Bureau’s main objectives for the near future and the most significant events to come.

At the same time, he recaps the Convention Bureau’s strong points, predicting the steps to be taken to continue to establish Bilbao as a destination, and highlighting the satisfaction experienced by visitors to Bilbao.


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