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The City Destinations Alliance Autumn Conference 2023, held in Valencia from October 3 to 7, brought together a record-breaking 240 attendees of forward-thinkers, visionaries, and tourism professionals from across the globe in a dynamic pursuit of sustainable urban tourism and positive transformation for urban destinations.

Under the theme “Building Blocks for Destination Positive,” the event showcased a diverse range of sessions, inspiring discussions, and innovative approaches to shape better cities and destinations. Here’s a recap of the conference’s highlights:

Educated Hope and Critical Optimism: Rhys Williams from University of Glasgow set the stage by highlighting how important educated hope and critical optimism is when we imagine destination positive.

Visit Mesa’s Accessibility Initiatives: Alison Brooks revealed Visit Mesa’s initiatives and comprehensive sensory design for an autism-friendly destination, highlighting DMOs’ potential in upskilling hospitality staff and providing accessibility information to empower visitors in making informed choices.

Social Tourism Best Practices: Julie Benisty Oviedo from the Office de Tourisme et des Congrès de Bordeaux Métropole shared best practices for social tourism through SolidAIR, demonstrating how tourism can benefit communities, particularly those in need of leisure opportunities.

Diversity and Belonging Roadmap: Aino Mellais from Helsinki Partners, Dejan Ristić from Ljubljana Tourism, and Jana Werl from Vienna Tourist Board, members of the CityDNA Advisory Council, shared their roadmap for the alliance towards diversity and belonging, underlining the importance of inclusivity.

Purposeful Business Models: Solange Cleutjens from amsterdam&partners and Tuya Beyers from VISITFLANDERS led an interactive legacy and impact workshop for destinations prepared in collaboration with Gemmeke De Jongh from VISITFLANDERS on a new purposeful business model for the positive impact of congresses.

VisitOSLO’s Transformation: Anne-Signe Fagereng recounted VisitOSLO’s journey, where an unexpected attraction, the opera house, evolved into a key tourist destination. The discussion shed light on the pivotal role that Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) play in facilitating destination dialogues among a multitude of stakeholders, ensuring diverse voices are considered when creating fair, open, and inclusive destination experiences.

Urban Design with AI: Damiano Cerrone introduced UrbanistAI’s innovative AI-based tools, empowering participants to sketch and visualize their urban design ideas using smart devices, thus contributing to the urban design process and sharing their vision for the space.

The conference was skillfully moderated by Signe Jungersted from Group NAO, ensuring engaging and productive discussions.

Petra Stušek, President of City Destinations Alliance, highlighted the conference’s mission, stating, “Our mission, ‘Building Blocks for Destination Positive,’ fosters hope, and we believe in the power of WeGeneration to shape better cities and destinations.”

The event brought together participants from various members and destinations, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bologna, Bolzano, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Flanders, Florence, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Helsinki, Ljubljana, Mechelen, Oslo, Valencia, and Vienna. CityDNA partners and collaborators, including ForwardKeys, Mabrian Technologies, Modul University Vienna, Place Generation, Simpleview, The Data Appeal Company, as well as other companies and universities like #MEET4IMPACT, RiFF Restaurant, Teejit, The Valuegraphics Project, ÜberQuell Hamburg, University of Glasgow, University of Surrey and UrbanistAI contributed to the conference’s success.

In Petra Stušek’s words, “Let us shift our focus from problems to solutions, from obstacles to opportunities, and together, we can turn the dream of Destination Positive into our shared reality. This CityDNA Autumn Conference has left attendees inspired, empowered, and eager to work towards a brighter future for urban destinations. Stay tuned for future initiatives and opportunities at CityDNA to make the vision of ‘Destination Positive’ a reality.”

The next CityDNA International Conference & General Assembly will be held in Bologna in spring 2024. More information to come on http://citydestinationsalliance.eu.