The Elephant in the Room: European DMOs and CVBs to discuss hidden topics in Sofia

The next City Destinations Alliance’s International Conference “The Elephant in the Room” will be held in Sofia on April 19-22, 2023. It is of vital importance to demystify hidden topics and make the most of of the collaborative advantage to address them.

We all know it’s there: The Elephant in The Room – that magnificent, big-eared presence that is too complex, too difficult, too sensitive, too uncomfortable to talk about openly. The world never stands still, and its elephants are evolving too! From net zero to labour shortage and challenges, passing by artificial intelligence and the shifting sphere of influence, 170+ members from DMOs all over Europe and beyond will get a new approach on existing elephants that have changed over time.

New elephants uncovered? The Power of CityDNA Community will expose new elephants in the room as attendees will be prompted to bring and share their own!

Net zero, decarbonization, nature positive, regenerative destinations… the first elephant has many names, but the real elephant of net zero is action! Thanks to Rodney Payne, CEO, Destination Think!, Michelle Morss, General Manager, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Mat Woods, Chief Executive, Destination Queenstown, Elke Dens, Global Director of Programs, The Travel Foundation and Dr. Ljubica Knežević Cvelbar, Professor, University of Ljubljana, attendees will get the answers to crucial questions: Are we moving – realistically – towards net zero by 2050 in tourism? Have we made the necessary choices, and do we understand which of our ways to shift and how?

The conference will also call out the elephant of actual influence – or rather, the shifting sphere of influence of the DMO and CVB in an interconnected urban environment of multiple voices, influencers, decision makers, layers of experience and major glocal disruptors. Jon Alexander, Co-Founder, New Citizenship Project will be praising about the Citizen Shift, and what it means to shift our thinking from consumers to citizens, inviting a more active and co-creative role in shaping tourism to our destinations.

In “The Destination Service Experience – out of hand(s)?”, John Flierman, Programme Director, House of Hospitality will address the challenge of work force and making the hospitality industry “great again”.

Calling out the elephant of data smarts, Jeroen Baerts, Computer Scientist & Comedian and Janette Roush, Executive Vice President, Marketing & Digital, NYC & Company will talk about Generative AI and what ChatGPT and AI will mean to the world of DMOs and CVBs. The bots aren’t coming to change our work – it has already changed!

Finally, Philip Mondor, President, Tourism HR Canada will hold a Keynote on the Future of work and why work might not be working. Great Resignation, Big Quit, Quiet Quitting, working remotely, 4-day work week, shared positions – the future of work is upon us and it’s flexible and inclusive. Also, it’s about a lot more than work. The final elephant of the conference will be about what doesn’t work about work – and whether the DMO & CVB are working to fix it? It will be followed by a panel discussion with destinations’ representatives from Bologna, Dublin, New York City and Oslo.

Participants will also get the chance to hear from other members and destinations (Amsterdam, Bilbao, Bologna, Catalonia, Dublin, Dubrovnik, Flanders, Glasgow, Hamburg, Ljubljana, Netherlands, Tel Aviv, Veluwe Arnhem Nijmegen) as well as CityDNA partners and collaborators (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 (BeSMART, Destinations International, Glasgow Caledonian University, The Other Half, Toponaut, University of the West of Scotland).

“I am excited about the conference programme that will be the occasion to discuss the sensitive and uncomfortable topics in our long-lasting open and transparent atmosphere. During the 3-day event in Sofia, participants will be invited to name their elephants to conquer them – or even better, set them free to leverage the collaborative advantage of their CityDNA community in addressing them.” concluded Petra Stušek, CityDNA President.

The programme is specifically curated for leisure and business tourism professionals. Registrations are open until April 14:



About City Destinations Alliance
We are a knowledge sharing network for cities and urban regions working to unfold the potential of the visitor economy. Our vision is for all cities in Europe to flourish as great places to live, work, meet and explore. As a community of professionals, our promise to each other is to always be curious and forward thinking, share our inspiration and never stop learning.

For more information and pictures, please contact:
Bénédicte Lack,, +33 380 56 02 03