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“The Elephant in the Room”The City Destinations Alliance’s International Conference titled “The Elephant in the Room” is set to take place in Sofia from April 19-22, 2023. Over 170 members from Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) across Europe and beyond will come together to tackle sensitive and uncomfortable topics that are too complex to discuss openly.

The conference will aim to demystify hidden topics and leverage the collaborative advantage of the CityDNA community to address them. Attendees will be prompted to share their experiences and insights to uncover new elephants in the room.

The conference will cover a range of essential topics, including the challenge of achieving net zero in tourism, the shifting sphere of influence of DMOs and CVBs, the future of work, and the impact of artificial intelligence on DMOs and CVBs.

Rodney Payne, CEO of Destination Think!, Michelle Morss, General Manager of Queenstown Lakes District Council, Mat Woods, Chief Executive of Destination Queenstown, Elke Dens, Global Director of Programs at The Travel Foundation, and Dr Ljubica Knežević Cvelbar, Professor at the University of Ljubljana, will discuss the crucial questions of whether the tourism industry is moving realistically towards net zero by 2050, whether the necessary choices have been made, and whether the industry understands how to shift to achieve net zero.

Jon Alexander, Co-Founder of the New Citizenship Project, will explore the concept of Citizen Shift and how it can shift our thinking from consumers to citizens, allowing us to play a more active and co-creative role in shaping tourism in our destinations. John Flierman, Programme Director at the House of Hospitality, will address the labour shortage challenge in the hospitality industry.

Jeroen Baerts, a Computer Scientist and Comedian, and Janette Roush, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Digital at NYC & Company, will talk about the impact of generative AI on DMOs and CVBs. Finally, Philip Mondor, President of Tourism HR Canada, will deliver a keynote speech on the future of work and why it might not work.

Participants will also be able to hear from representatives of various destinations, including Amsterdam, Bilbao, Bologna, Catalonia, Dublin, Dubrovnik, Flanders, Glasgow, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Netherlands, Tel Aviv, and Veluwe Arnhem Nijmegen. Additionally, CityDNA partners and collaborators, including the European Tourism Association (ETOA), European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI), ForwardKeys, GDS-Movement, Mabrian, Modul University, Simpleview, TCI Research, The Data Appeal Company, and other companies and universities, such as BeSMART, Destinations International, Glasgow Caledonian University, The Other Half, Toponaut, and the University of the West of Scotland, will be present.

Petra Stušek, CityDNA President, expressed excitement about the conference programme and emphasized the importance of discussing sensitive and uncomfortable topics in an open and transparent atmosphere. The programme is curated explicitly for leisure and business tourism professionals.

Registrations for the conference are open until April 14 and can be found on the City Destinations Alliance website.




Written by: Jill Walsh