City Destinations Alliance International Conference Reality Check: Exploring authenticity and innovation in urban tourism

From April 24-27, 2024, the City Destinations Alliance International Conference & General Assembly “Reality Check! On facts and fiction in urban tourism will unite more than 200 leisure and business tourism professionals in the historic city of Bologna to explore the essence of authenticity and reality in urban tourism.

In an era dominated by artificial content, “Reality Check!” is not just another conference. It’s an introspective journey that will challenge perceptions, encourage the sharing of best practices, and foster collaborative efforts to redefine the future of tourism.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Lviv Tourism Office will present a compelling narrative on how the city adapted its tourism strategy amidst the challenges posed by a full-scale war. Yaroslava Yaroslavska, Partnership Development Manager, will delve into Lviv’s shift towards domestic tourism and the introduction of social projects aimed at recovery and inclusivity for those most affected by the crisis.

Reevaluating Visitor Dispersal Strategies

Another highlight will be the critical examination of dispersal strategies within urban tourism. Olivier Ponti from ForwardKeysMiguel Angel Perez from VISIT VALÈNCIACarlotta Ferrari from Destination Florence CVB, and Rikke Holm Petersen from Wonderful Copenhagen will take part in an evidence-based discussion on the effectiveness of spreading visitors across cities and seasons. It will provide a comprehensive look at whether these strategies truly work in practice, offering data-driven insights and sharing experiences on the real impact of dispersal methods in reducing visitor pressure and enhancing the tourism experience for both guests and locals.

Community Tourism Reimagined

The conference will also feature a deep dive into the role of DMOs in community-powered tourism, with insights from Carron Tobin of SCOTOand Pia Lange Christensen of VisitAarhus. This session will examine the impact of volunteering on community tourism and the evolving role of DMOs in enhancing community well-being.

Exploring Multiple Realities

Highlighting the potential of new technologies, the multiple realities session will demonstrate how Toerisme Veluwe Arnhem Nijmegen represented by Omar van Beek is adding character, historical layers and interactive surprise to visitor experiences of historical places and how University of Glasgow’s Pauline Gray-Mackay is pushing forward Scotland’s cultural regeneration and innovation with virtual offers that don’t replace traditional museums, but enhance what they could offer by merging the virtual and physical into unchartered grounds for experiencing culture and heritage.

Leadership Transitions

In a dynamic discussion featuring four destination executives (amsterdam&partners’s Geerte UdoCity Destinations Alliance & Ljubljana Tourism’s Petra StušekVisit Antwerp’s Claire Mertens and Luxembourg City Tourist Office’s Antje Voss) at different stages of their careers, attendees will gain insights into the evolving demands of destination leadership, the challenges faced, and strategies for impactful leadership in urban tourism.

Exploring the Boundaries of Authenticity in the Digital Age

A pioneering session on the evolving concept of authenticity in an era saturated with AI-generated content. “Human-Made vs. Artificial Reality” promises a riveting discussion featuring the world’s first virtual human travel influencer, Esther Olofsson, and her creator, Maarten Reijgersberg from RAUWcc. The session will also delve into how GenAI is redefining the essence of cultural experiences, with insights from Davide Maggi of Cesarineon utilising technology to offer authentic Italian cultural experiences. DataEthics’s Pernille Tranberg will further enrich the debate by exploring the implications of these developments on our perception of reality and the ongoing negotiation between authenticity and artificiality. This session aims to challenge our preconceptions and open up a dialogue on the future of authenticity in tourism.

A New Perspective on City Tours

Finally, the conference will challenge attendees to view their cities through a different lens, with sessions by Marilena Netty from Uncomfortable Oxford and Sabina Mackevič-Lagutkinė from Vilnius City Municipality on overlooked historical narratives and sensory exploration, encouraging a more inclusive and diverse approach to city tourism.

The Essence of Authentic Intelligence

The session dedicated to authenticity with Turismo Torino e Provincia’s Marcella GaspardoneGlasgow Life’s Alex Harvie and Cesarine’s Davide Maggi will explore how destinations can tell authentic stories of their people, culture, and place. From the representation of local voices to the culinary gateway to local culture, this session will emphasise the shift from artificial to authentic intelligence.

Participants will also get the chance to hear from other members and destinations (Bologna, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Helsinki, Rotterdam, Turin) as well as CityDNA partners and collaborators (GDS-Movement, IMEX, Modul University, Simpleview, The Data Appeal Company, TOPOSOPHY) and other companies and universities (CitizenLab, InHolland University, Mastercard, MiPrendoeMiPortoVia, The Travel Foundation).

Petra Stušek, President of City Destinations Alliance said: “We are standing at a critical juncture in urban tourism, where the lines between what’s real and what’s artificial seem to blur more each day. The CityDNA International Conference & General Assembly in Bologna is not just an event; it’s a movement towards authenticity, sustainability, and inclusivity in tourism. We invite all the tourism professionals to join us in reimagining the future of urban tourism, where human experiences and genuine connections take centre stage. Together, we will embark on a journey to explore, question, and redefine what makes our cities truly unique and vibrant destinations for all.”

The conference will be moderated by Signe Jungersted from Group NAO.

The article City Destinations Alliance International Conference Reality Check: Exploring authenticity and innovation in urban tourism first appeared in TravelDailyNews International.

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