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Embracing Innovative and Unconventional Approaches to Urban Tourism and the Visitor Economy

Embracing Innovative and Unconventional Approaches to Urban Tourism and the Visitor Economy

Registration for 2024 GDS-Forum and CityDNA Autumn Conference is now open

Destination Marketing Organisation professionals meet in Bruges in October: Registration for the 2024 GDS-Forum and CityDNA Autumn Conference is now open

Imagine a future where urban tourism not only flourishes but leads the way in sustainability and innovation. This October, the historic city of Bruges will host a groundbreaking event aimed at transforming this vision. Destination marketing professionals worldwide are invited to join the GDS-Forum and CityDNA Autumn Conference, set to convene from 15 to 18 October 2024. These co-located events offer a unique platform for industry leaders to explore innovative strategies, collaborate on sustainability initiatives, and transform tourism.

The combined theme of the events, “Let Pigs Fly”, disrupts the conventional approach to urban tourism and the visitor economy, showcasing stories of achieving the impossible and driving change. It’s a gathering of bold individuals challenging the status quo, pushing the boundaries of destination innovation and transformation.

“As stewards of sustainability and innovation, Bruges extends a warm welcome to host the CityDNA Autumn Conference & GDS-Forum”, says Dieter Dewulf, Director and Tourism Manager of Visit Bruges.

GDS-Forum: Innovation and Collaboration

The GDS-Forum, renowned for its dynamic and unconventional “un-conference” model, aims to empower attendees to become more regenerative destination leaders. Through interactive workshops and collaborative sessions, participants will identify traits of transformational leaders and share actionable initiatives to drive positive socio-economic and environmental change in cities and regions. Together, attendees will unlock their collective intelligence, share meaningful exchanges, solve shared challenges, and accelerate their destinations’ sustainable and regenerative transformation.

“Our mission is to empower tourism and events professionals with the mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets to co-create more regenerative and resilient destinations to visit, meet, and live in,” states Guy Bigwood, CEO at GDS-Movement. “The GDS-Forum offers an exceptional platform for destination marketing professionals to exchange better practices, cultivate the capacity for transformative change, and leave feeling energised, empowered, and inspired.”

CityDNA Autumn Conference: Leveraging Technology for Sustainability

The CityDNA Autumn Conference will delve into the transformative potential of AI, urban innovation, sustainable destination management, and business event impacts. With themed sessions exploring topics like predictive analytics, crisis management, and open-source innovation, attendees will gain insights into leveraging technology for sustainable tourism practices.

“Cultivating a sustainable, inclusive, and responsible visitor economy is our commitment for cities and urban regions. By leveraging AI-driven technologies alongside sharing best practices and learning from each other’s experiences, our members can address challenges and find innovative solutions to future-proof our respective cities. This collaborative approach allows us to explore groundbreaking ideas, from leveraging new funding models and hosting impactful mega events, to navigating crises and fostering a culture of big thinking and resilience. Together, we can optimise resource allocation, predict traveller behaviour, and make informed decisions for a more sustainable future“, added Barbara Jamison-Woods, President of City Destinations Alliance.

GDS-Awards Ceremony: Celebrating Excellence

One of the highlights of the two events will be the prestigious GDS-Awards ceremony on the Wednesday evening. Celebrating this year’s winners in destination leadership and regenerative innovation, the ceremony, recognising outstanding achievements in sustainable tourism, will be held at the historic Royal Municipal Theatre.

To secure your place and contribute to shaping a sustainable and innovative visitor economy, visit




The GDS-Movement is a pioneering, data-driven international change agency that acts to catalyse socio-economic and environmental transformation in cities and regions across the world. Our mission is to empower tourism and events professionals with the mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets to co-create more regenerative and resilient destinations to visit, meet, and live in. Discover more at


The GDS-Forum is a gathering of destination leaders, sustainability advocates, and tourism experts, fostering innovation for regeneration.

The GDS-Forum programme is an evolving un-conference experience in the form of a flexible and informal meeting defined by deep cooperation. It aims to

  • unlock attendees’ collective intelligence,
  • share meaningful exchanges,
  • solve shared challenges, and
  • empower participants to accelerate their destinations’ sustainable and regenerative tourism and events strategies through radical collaboration.

City Destinations Alliance (CityDNA), the Global Destination Sustainability Movement (GDS-Movement), and Visit Bruges partner this year to present this exceptional in-person event, dedicated to nurturing cities’ environmental and socio-economic well-being.


GDS-Awards is an annual recognition of excellence in destination leadership, innovation, improvement, and legacy initiatives.

In its 9th edition, GDS-Awards recognises outstanding contributions and innovation practices through the ´Leadership Award´ based on GDS-Index ranking, the ´Most Improved Destination Award´ based on year-on-year GDS-Index benchmarking results, the ´Innovation Award´, selected by an independent panel of industry experts and the ´Impact Award´ in collaboration with #Meet4Impact, also selected by an external panel of industry experts.

The GDS-Awards ceremony brings together the GDS-Movement, City Destinations Alliance (CityDNA) and the host community in an inspiring celebration. It serves as a prestigious platform to honour the remarkable achievements of the winners.


CityDNA is the European knowledge-sharing alliance for cities and urban regions is dedicated to shaping the DNA of cities while prioritising sustainability, inclusivity, and responsibility in the visitor economy, benefitting people, the planet, and prosperity. The alliance, more than a mere network, aims to publicly advocate for common goals while fostering a culture of mutual learning.

Their vision is for all European cities to thrive as exceptional places to live, work, meet, and explore. As a community of destination marketing organisation (DMO) professionals, their commitment to each other is rooted in curiosity, forward-thinking, and the continuous exchange of inspiration and knowledge.


The CityDNA Autumn Conference provides destination professionals working for Tourist Boards, CVBs and DMOs with a unique occasion to meet and network with colleagues from Europe and beyond, while learning and sharing knowledge and insights on the latest trends and challenges of urban tourism in Europe.

The CityDNA conference showcases a diverse range of collaborative sessions, inspiring discussions, and innovative approaches.


Visit Bruges is committed to enriching the cultural and economic fabric of the city, ensuring a thriving, sustainable future for all. The organisation’s mission is to reach the right audience with the right story through the right channels at the right times, ensuring a meaningful connection with visitors both physically and virtually. By providing inspiration and information where and when visitors seek it, Visit Bruges enhances their experience and encourages them to share their journey.

Visit Bruges supports the sustainable development of tourism by managing its impact and contributing to a more sustainable visitor economy. Guided by Bruges’ core values, the organisation strives to maintain a dynamic urban environment that is balanced, connected, attractive, and enterprising. Its efforts aim to benefit all placemakers, including residents, entrepreneurs, and visitors, enhancing the overall well-being of the community.


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