What’s taboo? Conversations the travel industry isn’t having yet

David Archer

16 January 2024

“The pressure that a lot of destinations are feeling […] relates to sustainability and the pressure to put action behind words.” – Signe Jungersted, CEO and Founding Partner at Group NAO


Which travel topics seem off-limits in your community or workplace? Today’s Travel Beyond guest wants to help the industry have the uncomfortable conversations it needs for making sure travel is a force for good. And there’s no time like the present. Destinations are under increasing public pressure to take action that matches their sustainable promises, says today’s Travel Beyond guest, Signe Jungersted. 

Signe worked on The End of Tourism As We Know It strategy as Director of Development at Wonderful Copenhagen. She continues to lead destinations and communities through change at her Copenhagen-based strategic agency Group NAO, where she is CEO and Founding Partner. Signe is well-versed in strategic collaboration. And in this episode, she explains why the tourism industry needs to take itself more seriously as a solution to the climate crisis and why DMOs have a unique opportunity to step into a more expansive role. She sees an exciting future ahead for travel and for destinations, as long as we confront the challenges together – allowing for a little laughter along the way.

This episode, Signe discusses:

  • Critical conversations to have for the sake of travel’s role in creating a better world.
  • How sustainability used to be an add-on to destination management strategies, but now pressure is rising to make real changes happen.
  • Why she hopes tourism starts taking itself seriously in being a positive solution for sustainability and the climate crisis. 
  • Destinations that are dependent on long-haul travellers.
  • The relevance of DMOs as organizations and whether marketing is still the right role.
  • What the experience of localhood means to her in Copenhagen.




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Show notes

10X Copenhagen – A research project revealing how residents and visitors view tourism and to assist Copenhagen in strategic planning.

The End of Tourism As We Know It – Wonderful Copenhagen’s destination strategy released in 2017 that introduced the concept of localhood.

Group NAO – A strategic consultancy based in Copenhagen, where Signe Jungersted is CEO and Founding Partner.

Mikkel Aarø Hansen on Travel Beyond – Our previous Europe’s Travel Leaders episode featured Wonderful Copenhagen’s CEO. 

Wonderful Copenhagen – The destination management organization (DMO) responsible for the Danish capital city.

Programs mentioned in the episode’s June 2024 re-release:

BC Tourism Climate Resiliency Initiative – A program including four streams that have begun rolling out in 2024.

Destination Climate Champions – An Expedia program giving destination organizations the skills they need to create climate plans.

Tourism Montreal’s $1M climate resilience fund for events –  The May 2024 announcement of a new program.

Episode transcript

Signe Jungersted: But then also, what’s the purpose of doing it, right? Because everyone has a tourism vision. And I’m very much part of that. But maybe that’s not the right way to go. Maybe you don’t have a vision for tourism. Maybe that vision isn’t for tourism, maybe it’s for something else, and that’s where you start, and then you figure out, how tourism contributes. 

David Archer: Hello, and welcome back to Travel Beyond. I’m David Archer, Editorial Manager at Destination Think, and I’m recording from Haida Gwaii, the territory of the Haida Nation. On this show, we partner with leading destinations to bring you inspiring solutions to the greatest challenges facing communities and the planet.

And today we’re heading to Copenhagen in Denmark, where our guest is Signe Jungersted, who brings a keen strategic mind and knowledge of DMOs to this discussion.

 Signe’s experience includes a role as Development Director at Wonderful Copenhagen, which is the city’s destination management organization. During her tenure there, she worked on the strategy that’s familiar to many of our listeners called The End of Tourism as We Know It, and the concept of localhood that came out of that.

If you aren’t yet familiar with that strategy, I recommend checking out our episode with Mikkel Aarø-Hansen from Wonderful Copenhagen or reading the summary blog we published about it and our involvement with it way back in 2017. That’s still available at destinationthink.com/blog. 

And these days, Signe brings her DMO experience into her work as CEO and Founding Partner at Group NAO, which is an agency in Copenhagen working on strategy, communication, and policy.

Signe and her company also helped facilitate the City Destinations International Conference in Sofia that we’ve been referencing throughout this series of Europe’s Travel Leaders, though this conversation happened a bit later on in Copenhagen. 

Today’s topics include destination management, what DMOs are really for, and what isn’t being said loudly enough or often enough in the travel industry.

You’ll hear Rodney asking her two times, what conversations are we not having? And I’ve left both of those questions and answers in because both are quite interesting. And that’s one reason I love the long format of podcasts like this. We can take some time to really marinate in the good ideas and deep thinking.

So without further ado, let’s listen in on Rodney Payne’s conversation with Signe Jungersted. 

Signe Jungersted: I’m Signe Jungersted, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of a strategy consultancy called Group NAO. 

Rodney Payne: What’s your favourite place to bike around Copenhagen?

Signe Jungersted: I like the bridges across the water, cause they, they have like almost an experience built into them. Some, some are like – go down, so you go really fast, and some are just like artworks in themselves, so that’s my favourite, is when I can incorporate the bridges. 

I think what I love about Copenhagen is, and this is a cliche answer, but it is the fact that biking is the most convenient way to get around. And it usually just makes me happy, like it’s the best way to start my day and finish my day. 

Rodney Payne: Yeah, I totally agree. If there’s one thing I think I learned from here and Amsterdam, my time there, is how awesome biking is. It’s just so fun. 

Signe Jungersted: It really is fun, like it makes your day. And even when it’s not great weather, it’s snowing or worse, like raining and stormy, it still kind of just gives you a great start of the day to go, like fresh air, and moving around, and the freedom and flexibility of it is great. 

Rodney Payne: What would the world miss if travel didn’t exist?

Signe Jungersted: I think if travel didn’t exist, the world would miss understanding and challenge. When I reflect on what I missed during COVID, I remember telling my business partner and co-founder you know, I miss being challenged on smells, cause I know the smells. I mean, I’ve been in Copenhagen for many, many years. I know what everything smells like. I’m not surprised very much in my sort of sensory self, but that’s what I missed about travelling, is just feeling that challenge of like, “Oh, what’s this? Do I like it? Don’t I like it? Where am I? How is this? And what’s the smell?” 

And so that, that understanding of a new place and yeah, I think that’s, that’s part of what the world would miss if travel wasn’t here. 

Rodney Payne: Can you tell me a little about your career and your background? What did you use to do before Group NAO?

Signe Jungersted: Before Group NAO, I was the Development Director of Wonderful Copenhagen. So that’s the DMO of Copenhagen Capital Region. So yeah, and that’s actually also where I kind of started my career.

Uh, I started there building up our Chinese market efforts. I had been living in China for a couple of years and then came to Copenhagen and hadn’t really thought about tourism at that time, but then kind of stumbled into it and got caught up in it. And yeah, so I was with Wonderful Copenhagen for about seven years, and in the last four years, I was responsible for strategic development, innovation, new projects that would kind of push the DMO and the city forward.

And as part of that, we launched the strategy called The End of Tourism and welcomed a new era of localhood, which really was kind of defining for how my four years as Development Director then developed.

Rodney Payne: And what was the reaction to that strategy, and what impact has it had? 

Signe Jungersted: The reactions to The End of Tourism as a strategy were interesting because they were actually international before they became local. I think it was actually the first strategy we published in English.

I didn’t know what it meant to do a strategy, which I think was a good thing at the time.

So I was just kind of going with what I thought made sense. And so we published it in English and that meant that the reactions were really international. I think the idea of localhood resonated in a lot of destinations. They just hadn’t really said it themselves yet.

And the idea of temporary locals, for example, as well, really resonated. The reaction from a local audience and from Copenhagen came a little bit later. But the reaction then was also adoption. Like, this made sense. But it took a little while because it, I think it was just different. Like we were used to talking about tourism in terms of like, which international markets do we go for? What kind of events do we want to attract? And then this strategy was more of a filter really on how we wanted to do it, right?

So yeah, those were the reactions. Also, as always, lots of discussions. 

Rodney Payne: I love thinking about a strategy as a filter and, you know, if strategies lead to discussions, that’s a great –

Signe Jungersted: Yeah.

Rodney Payne: A great outcome. 

Signe Jungersted: I think so. 

Rodney Payne: What does localhood mean to you?

Signe Jungersted: For me, localhood is, like, something really personal. It’s, it’s, it’s whatever makes you feel like this is a distinct place in the world, and I’m part of it, in a way.

So, to me, localhood is a very unflashy everyday experience. It can also be the smells of a street. Somewhere where you, you have it when you travel, right? When you’re walking around an area and you’re thinking, oh, I’m the only tourist here, and you’re just basically observing local life and how that works. That to me is localhood. 

But it’s probably something different for someone else, which I like. There’s no definition in the strategy. And that was, that was the idea. It should be defined collaboratively or individually. Yeah. 

Rodney Payne: How do you see localhood manifesting in Copenhagen? 

Signe Jungersted: Copenhagen is a localhood city, right? Because it’s, it doesn’t actually have a lot of attractions. So the localhood is the attraction, like Copenhagen… When I was in Wonderful Copenhagen, we did a huge research project called 10x Copenhagen. And we were looking at how the city is used by different groups, like which area do locals go to, and which areas do tourists go to. And there was this idea that the inner city would be mostly tourists. But actually, the locals also go to the inner city. It’s a small city, so we hang out in the neighbourhoods that are available to hang out in.

And so I like that, that, that, in a way, all of Copenhagen is local. 

Rodney Payne: How does tourism play into the whole environment of Copenhagen?

Signe Jungersted: Tourism plays into Copenhagen more and more. It’s become a more visible entity or, like, influence. And you also have areas that are heavily touristic, I would say, especially during, like, the summer season. COVID also brought tourism up as a more explicit discussion point. You had an industry struggling and that was in the media a lot. And there’s also more attention to local reactions or resident reactions to tourism than we had before. 

At the same time, I think there’s a general understanding that because of tourism, we also have globally known experiences like Noma. 

I mean, I don’t, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Noma, but it’s a really expensive experience. It’s a great experience, but it’s very expensive. And so I don’t think we would be able to support it if it was just the Copenhageners that could go. But the fact that it’s there makes a lot of Copenhageners very proud. And it builds off, you know, local produce or Danish produce and, there’s a strong Nordic food culture to it as well, combined with inspiration from all over the world, of course. But I think there is a growing understanding, and probably COVID also helped, that we wouldn’t have those experiences without tourism as well.

Rodney Payne: Are you proud to live in Copenhagen?

Signe Jungersted: Am I proud to live in Copenhagen? I think so. Yeah, I think so. It’s usually something I would say when I meet people around the world. Yeah, and I feel good about that. Am I always going to live here? I don’t know. I’m not sure, but I probably always will return. 

Rodney Payne: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely get the sense that people are proud of Copenhagen. Yeah. Like, generally speaking, there’s that really quiet, quiet pride. 

Signe Jungersted: Yeah. 

Rodney Payne: That is – I’ve, I’ve seen everywhere.

Signe Jungersted: Yes. but the reason I’m – I’m hesitating a little bit to answer the question because I also feel that pride can very quickly lean into arrogance. And I think in Copenhagen, I think we are aware, but we also have to keenly remind ourselves that we’re also privileged. With the size of the city, it does make it more accessible to make some of the changes we’ve made.

I lived in both Shanghai and Beijing for a while, and it’s, the challenge there and the scope and scale of the challenge are very different from the scope and scale of the challenge here. And so, I, I think we do need to also remember that in our arrogance to be, you know, just look at Copenhagen, you could do this as well.

And sometimes, yeah, you can take inspiration from it, but it’s also very contextual for the kind of place that we are. and of course the welfare of our society. 

Rodney Payne: The journey from living in China to international marketing, through to driving change within Wonderful Copenhagen, and pushing towards thinking about resident quality of life and localhood, through to some of the work you do now, is quite a big transition. What do you reflect on that? What, is that when you look backwards through that transition? How do you, how do you think about it?

Signe Jungersted: Well, it feels like I followed the journey of tourism. Like it, you know, also the topics that were discussed. When I started in tourism, I felt everyone was discussing the Chinese market and how do we do better?

And at the same time, I always, I have always felt that my role, even in building up the Chinese market, was also to question sort of the the way we approached it. At that time it wasn’t about sustainability, but it was about diversifying how we, for example, saw the Chinese audience. That was one of my main things there, was to say, well, we can’t talk about “the Chinese.”

It doesn’t exist as a, as a, what do you say? A homogenous group. It’s so many markets within the market. It’s so many different people. And so, and they’re also developing and they, and they just started travelling at that time to the, you know, to Europe. And so we were, it was really developing.

So I think that like a sense of, something is shifting, I need to follow the shifts more than I need to build success on what’s happening right now, has always been at the core of what I did within tourism. 

But then shifting now to, you know, questioning whether we should continue to do long-haul marketing and all these things – there is a huge jump. But I’m happy I started somewhere else, so I have that background and I understand a little bit the dynamics of where we were at the time.

Rodney Payne: Beyond your experience here in Copenhagen, you’ve got a really good perspective on other places around Europe and around the world. Are you seeing other people ask that question: should we be marketing internationally?

Signe Jungersted: I do. I see that question coming up more and more that destinations, DMOs are questioning whether or not to do long-haul marketing.

It’s not necessary. I think the discussion often goes into no, but we need to welcome everyone. And I think we need to bring that discussion down to, it’s not that you’re closing your borders, but you’re discussing how your resources are well spent.

And we work closely with City Destinations Alliance, we support them in programming and moderating their two annual conferences. And we had one in Sofia, where you were there as well, as a speaker. And we had one where I was polling the audience on, you know, we have about, I guess, between 100 and 120 DMOs in the room. And so we were polling the audience and I asked them, how many of you have reoriented your marketing from long haul? And it was about half of the room, a little bit lower than 50%, I think 48 percent or 47 percent answered that they have reoriented their marketing efforts. So, I think the number is bigger than we suspect.

Rodney Payne: Yeah, those are the people who admitted to it quickly.

Signe Jungersted: Yes, exactly.

Rodney Payne: So what’s the pressure on destinations to be thinking strategically and re-evaluating their markets?

Signe Jungersted: I think the pressure on destinations to re-consider and re-evaluate the markets that they’re working to attract is strongly based on sort of the push for sustainability.

And I think it’s also, a pressure to put action behind words and figuring out where is it exactly that we can actually make an impact as a DMO.

In the early days of sustainability, or what I saw, was that sustainability was an add-on, right? So you’d continue doing all the different things that you were already doing, and then you’d sort of add a sustainability project manager, or a sustainability strategy, and integrate the word sustainable in whatever you were doing, but just basically continuing doing the same. You maybe even have, like, the sustainability guide somewhere on your website alongside the top 10 things to do or whatever. 

And I think now the pressure is intensifying from lip service, basically, to where can we actually make a real change? And that now is starting also to reflect on, oh, where do we change all the other tracks of how we’re working? And looking at your marketing not just in terms of your marketing messages, but actually the markets that you’re working on attracting is a, is part of that. 

Then I think the other part of that is of course looking at emissions. That’s becoming much more of an awareness among most. Well, not just DMOs, just everyone. And so that’s another thing, right? Are we working to attract the visitors that have the highest emissions, the highest footprint? Or is it, you know, do we re-orient to nearby travel? Again, COVID, I think, was a catalyst for a lot of this. Because nearby travel and staycation and all that became kind of a trend. But the awareness and the consciousness of your footprint is also really pushing on that. And the DMOs are reflecting on it.

Rodney Payne: Focusing on increasing demand in closer markets to reduce, the footprint of moving people around is one lever a DMO can pull that really goes directly to the type of work they do. What other things do you think that tourism boards in the cities they operate within can do to, where do they have control? 

Signe Jungersted: That’s the main question for a lot of DMOs. Where do we actually have control? Because many DMOs are still measured on a number of bed nights, or the volumes or quantity of whatever they’re attracting, or the money spent, which is at least a slightly better measure than the number of heads on beds.

In essence, I think it’s considering it across everything. Like, how do we integrate it in everything that we’re working on, whether you have efforts that relate to aviation, route development, cruise, the messages that you put out, how you are lobbying for change in your destination as well, and how you bring people together, who you’re working with, the partnerships that you commit to, the events that you attract, the requirements that you set for the partners that you work with. 

I think there are so many different levels of work that you can do if you really consider all the aspects of your work. I do think that a lot of DMOs are doing this already. And then I think the hard part is deciding that no, but this is the only way we’re doing it, we’re only working with partners that live up to these requirements or that are also working along the, towards the same goal as we are.

Rodney Payne: What are your hopes for tourism in the future? 

Signe Jungersted: It’s really difficult to say what my hopes for tourism in the future is. I hope that tourism still exists in sort of the core essence of what tourism is. Understanding new places, different people, cultures, language, all these things. Challenging yourself and your worldview. 

 From a professional point of view, I hope that tourism starts taking itself seriously, I think, and start taking itself seriously in the way that also means seriously considering what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and how we can do better. And I think also admitting to the fact that there are negative impacts and we need to work on it. And it’s okay to also admit that it’s not an easy fix, but we do need to address the fix.

What I come from is the DMO world, right? So I also know that world the best. In Europe especially, those DMOs are very often, if not completely, then semi-publicly funded. And with that also follows a responsibility to push some of these agendas much more aggressively forward. And take themselves seriously and the responsibility that they could take on in that. And I understand that it’s difficult, but I do think that’s the role we need to play.

Rodney Payne: What do you think is holding people back?

Signe Jungersted: I think so many different things are holding people back. I think politics, sometimes. Sometimes it’s the difficulty of actually figuring out what’s the right solution. Sometimes change is just hard. Cause it will probably mean that you have to stop doing things and it’s really easy to add stuff. It’s very difficult to take things away. And so I think that’s, that’s what’s holding people back, that we will need to change what we’re doing today. And it will probably need to look very, very different in the future. 

 Side story, but a little bit the same. So when I started in tourism, I had like a very brief encounter with a law, like a big law firm. I’m not a lawyer, I didn’t study law, so I was in a different capacity. I didn’t like it very much. 

Signe Jungersted: I personally didn’t like sort of the atmosphere and the way of working. And everything was always under the threat of doing something wrong because it could have like really serious consequences if you got just like a comma wrong in something. And I didn’t enjoy working under that pressure.

And then I discovered tourism and I was like, oh, here it’s just about great stuff. It’s so positive. No one dies. It’s just, have a great holiday. And so I really enjoyed that in the beginning coming into tourism, that it was such a positive agenda. Like, what can we do to make that even better? 

And I think now it’s a little bit different, right? Now we actually have to start talking about what is it that tourism doesn’t do very well and, and how do we, how do we actually maximize that for better?

And I also think we have to widen the discussion, so, so, well, you and me, we talk a lot about emissions and green transition and these things. There’s also a social piece that I’m quite preoccupied with. How do we build on that? And, and it’s interesting, I’m so often in discussions about if we put taxes on tourism or on flights or whatever it can be, then it, tourism will become very exclusive, it will only be for the few.

Tourism is very exclusive, it is only for the few already. If you’re stuck in traffic, you are traffic. And most of the people who say that are already stuck in traffic. They already have the privilege of traveling. It’s such a small part of the world that actually goes on holiday like that.

So I, I do think that, like, awareness and that understanding that visiting a place, getting to travel, working in tourism and inviting tourism to places is a privilege. It needs to serve a bigger purpose for the societies that it invites tourism into. 

Rodney Payne: Yeah. I don’t separate emissions or environmental footprint with the social aspects of sustainability because they’re so interlinked. And the economic aspects as well, they’re also interrelated. 

Do you think that the negative parts of tourism in all those areas, social, economic, environmental, will be fixed before there’s big disruption to the way tourism works?

Signe Jungersted: I don’t think tourism will manage to fix itself entirely before there is a big disruption that will change it for them. I don’t think so. I think part of it will improve. Things will be done in better ways. Some transitions will happen, but I don’t think that it will get, like, to a place where it doesn’t need that major disruption coming in from the outside. It’s already happening. Like, this summer with wildfires and droughts and all these.

It’s, that’s major disruptions that are changing how we think about tourism. And how we think about tourism consumption of resources in places. How we think about the tourism flows and seasons and so many things are coming up based on that major disruption. So I think the answer is really also that it’s already happening. 

Rodney Payne: Which places do you think will best manage the transition or disruption? What types of places are best positioned?

Signe Jungersted: A difficult question. Maybe it’s also because I live in the Nordics, and someone told me the other day, well, you’re comparing your insides to someone’s outsides, and I, and there’s probably a little bit of that, that I’m more critical to some of the efforts being made in the Nordic region than I maybe am to some other regions, so I’m aware of that bias that I have. 

But I do feel that we’re a little bit complacent. We’re extremely comfortable. We are very comfortable. We are all, in the Nordic region, we’re, we’re rich countries. We have a comfortable climate as well. We’re probably the ones that will get hit later on or less disruptively, than what we’re seeing in other places. 

I’m hoping the Nordic region will take that as a responsibility to then support the rest of the world with great solutions. Run ahead and share what you find. I see that happening. But I think that some of the regions, places that feel the pressure more intensively will also push for solutions more intensively. 

Rodney Payne: One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about is, when we look back in five or ten years, whether places that aren’t dependent on long haul have actually floated to the surface.

Signe Jungersted: Yeah, that may be, that may happen. I don’t know, but I think, somehow I also think it’s the easiest thing to think that the, places that are not dependent on long haul will, will sort of succeed in the longer term. Also, because there are some places that I want to succeed that are dependent on long haul. You know, I have, I have those destinations in mind that I, I really want to succeed, but they depend on visitors flying in. And so I almost don’t want to admit that probably that will be a success measure, because we need those places to succeed.

Rodney Payne: Well, let me, let me qualify that actually, cause it’s a good point. When I say dependent on long haul, I mean dependent on a lot of long haul, not the appropriate balance that has the right volume for the place and where the experience justifies paying for the true cost.

Signe Jungersted: Yeah. When we say on long haul, we’re also talking about a specific kind of mindset that is also just dependence on quantity, or if not dependence, the habitual like this is how we create success.

So if you depend on long haul, you need to find that balance in a different way. How many is the right number of visitors to attract and, and how do we do it? So Norway is starting a little bit to look at, what’s the CO2 emissions per Norwegian kroner spent across different markets?

It’s still a very sort of market-based approach, but nonetheless, I think that’s a really big step in starting to think about this differently. Also because it questions, like, the easy conclusion of saying, we’re not working to attract this and this, the Chinese market, for example. It, nuances it in a different way. And I think we need to push that even further, that nuance of understanding what we do. Because I want some places to succeed that haven’t necessarily lived off tourism in the same way that other countries have.

Rodney Payne: What do you think are the conversations we’re not having that we need to be having? What are we not talking about?

Signe Jungersted: What are we not talking about? Well, you and me are talking about everything. 

 From a DMO perspective, I’ll stay within that world a little bit. I think we need to talk about what’s the relevance of the DMO in this sphere, this moment of time that we’re in. Really, like, what is your relevance as an organization? Why does it make sense that you’re receiving these funds, to work with tourism to make this change?

I’m not saying there isn’t an answer that’s good, I just think that we’re not talking about it in a way that actually will push this forward. We need to talk about that. We need to talk about scope 3 emissions. We need to talk about cruise in a different way than we have.

And we need to talk about, I think we need to 10x DMOs. It’s, we’re not, it’s not adding a different thing, it’s not taking away something. It’s 10x-ing the whole thing. For it to make sense in the long term. 

Because if you’re still focusing on marketing, you know, there are so many that do marketing a lot better than the DMOs do. And, do you really need to do marketing anymore? And What kind of you know, I just think, then you’ve got to talk about how do we do marketing that adds a value to where we want to go. 

If you’re, have like a cruise team, maybe your role isn’t to talk up the benefits of cruise. Maybe your role is to make sure that we completely understand the exact impact of cruise and how we’re balancing that out, if possible. Maybe that’s where we need to go.

Rodney Payne: Yeah, I really, I really like that. What are some of the areas that you think DMOs can really step into? Because we’ve, we’ve got some. resources that comes from tourism, right? Whether it comes top-down or bottom-up through a hotel tax, you’ve got a little, a little cream off the top of the tourism sector that’s currently spent on marketing. I’m generalizing. Yeah. What sorts of areas are super exciting to think about DMOs stepping into?

Signe Jungersted: I’m excited to think about DMOs more as incubators or as pushing for real change, and maybe also pushing for new models that will make that happen. That could also include funding.

I’m excited about tourism taxes. In a way, that sounds very nerdy, but I am. And how we could redesign those. And I do think the DMO could, benefit from going into that discussion more.


Signe Jungersted: DMOs are extremely knowledgeable. Like, they have a very broad overview of tourism to their destinations. They’re also very knowledgeable and typically very, very passionate about the destinations that they’re representing. Combining those two, I think, is exciting. Like, what can we do that combines the passion for your localhood, for your local community, for your, the destination that you’re representing, with the, the in depth understanding that most of them actually have of tourism. Stepping away from this strange lobby role I see some DMOs taking on to more of a 10x-ing role. Tourism will come regardless, right? 

It’s kind of a force, like it, it travels, funnily enough. So the DMOs are in a really unique position to be sort of the incubators, the facilitators of how do we change it, like what do we want to do with it?

You’re not going to close your borders, so what, what are our options within that? And being those, like, catalysts of innovation. 

 Sometimes what frustrates me, I know I’m not, like, talking about what excites me, but what frustrates me about DMOs is that I see a lot of them, if it’s not coming from them, they don’t celebrate it. And they, they have to start celebrating innovations that happen. And they are the ones that can translate major innovations outside tourism into tourism because they understand it so well. A lot of the major innovators, like, new solutions within, I don’t know, agriculture, they don’t see the opportunity to translate into tourism, but the DMO might, you know, so there’s something there that I think they could step into much more. 

Rodney Payne: I really like the words you use in terms of 10x and incubating. I’ve started thinking way too much at night about how much agency communities have and how much soft influence tourism boards have.

And I think that the future is going to be really complex, and really uncertain, and constantly changing. And we’ve had this amazing period of stability that it seems like we’re leaving behind.

And one day we’re going to be managing wildfires and evacuating tourists, and the next day we’re going to be trying to figure out how to save the tourism businesses that the economy currently depends on.

And we’re going to be thinking about diversifying beyond just seasonality and markets but into different sectors. Yeah. Can the DMO use tourism wealth? To be the leader in the place? 

Signe Jungersted: Yeah. I think that’s exactly, that’s a really good point. A lot of the DMOs are saying, like, it’s not about tourism as a goal in itself, it’s about tourism as a means, but what do they mean? Like, I say it often because it makes sense to me. But I don’t see a lot of DMOs actually using tourism as a means. 

They’re building the tool, and, and then what, right? And I think if DMOs position themselves as the ones that understand how to also pool, like collect the wealth from tourism and reinvest, reorient into, it doesn’t have to be, I’m not only talking about money. you know, but reorient that into local communities, into green transition efforts. How powerful would that be? And tourism taxes I do think is a key part of that. Because you could really create some funds out of that and then reinvest those into meaningful efforts. 

Rodney Payne: I almost want to go back to the question on what we need to talk about. I think we’re…

Let’s do it again. 

Signe Jungersted: Yeah. 

Rodney Payne: What are the conversations that we’re not having, that we need to talk about? 

Signe Jungersted: I think some of the conversations that we’re not having, or that we’re not, we’re not understanding how to have, is about the scope and scale of tourism and, and saying how much is good enough to serve the purpose we have. How much do we need to maximize the wealth that comes from it and that we can use in good ways? 

Tourism for good, as, we’re talking about, we’re saying it a lot, but how much is needed for that? And having that very earnest conversation on regulation, on scaling down and saying no to things, like saying no to the growth that we don’t want. Maybe it’s saying no to cruise, maybe it’s saying no to long-haul marketing. It could be multiple different things, but those conversations we do need to have. 

So we like to talk about how we can make tourism a force for good. But, but I also, I think it was the CEO of Visit Flanders who said, you know, you can have such a thing as too much of a good thing, or something like that. And I do think we need to talk about that too. 

And then again, we have to talk about, we can’t close borders. Like, that’s not really the world that we want to live in. So, then what are our measures of, you know, what can we do to regulate this force that comes in? But then also, what’s the purpose of doing it, right? Because everyone has like a tourism vision. And I’m very much part of that. But maybe that’s not the right way to go. Maybe you don’t have a vision for tourism. If tourism, like, someone asked me yesterday, We had an event where we were talking about like, all the stuff that came out of our project and sort of building up competencies and understanding and inspiration for sustainable development of tourism. And at some point someone asked me, well, I just don’t know, like, how do I approach all these tools or like, how do I use them? How do I sort of get started using them?

And I was like, that’s like asking, how do I, how do I get started using a hammer? Like, either you have something you want to smash, or you have something you want to build, but unless you are very clear on which of the two you’re going for, and whatever you’re building, how, what do you want it to look like, and all these things, like you need that vision. But maybe that vision isn’t for tourism, maybe it’s for something else, and that’s where you start, and then you figure out, how tourism contributes. 

Rodney Payne: Do you think Copenhagen can be an inspiration for other places?

Signe Jungersted: I think Copenhagen can be an inspiration for other places. But in theory, I think any place can be an inspiration for other places. I think Copenhagen is an inspiration already in terms of, green solutions, biking infrastructure, architecture. 

In tourism, I think, as well, there’s been some great things coming out of Copenhagen. What I do feel is the skepticism from other parts of the world in terms of the, you know, the ease, or how easy it is to make that change in a city like Copenhagen. So I think that inspiration has to come in really good ways. 

What inspires me from other destinations have been where I see destinations really going for open source, like sharing what works in a very open way. Helsinki has inspired me a lot on that. Building solutions, sharing what works, always having open source kind of as a principle, I really appreciate that as a development principle. 

Rodney Payne: What does it mean to you to be a good ancestor? 

Signe Jungersted: To me, the responsibility I have is to be in conversations like this. I struggle a little bit with the fact that I’m talking about these topics and I still travel. That’s, that’s, my dilemma. I try to make the best use I can of that. To have these conversations to take tourism seriously and inspire where we need to go. And bring up the, some of the topics that maybe needs to be brought up. I try to use the, whatever platform I have to do that. Yeah. 

Rodney Payne: This might be a good one to, to finish on. Mm-Hmm. In life, what are the things that bring you the most joy? 

Signe Jungersted: Food? It’s an easy one. No, seriously, it’s food. Yeah. I think food and laughter. It’s very simple, I’m not that complicated, or at least on those things. Those bring me the most joy. 

Professionally, what brings me the most joy is, is also laughter. I like where it gets a little bit tough. You’re a little bit anxious, and I guess that’s why I like laughter because that’s typically a way of dealing a little bit with it, but also pushing through it, like staying with it. If we can laugh at it, but still push, then we’re in a good place, and I enjoy that.


David Archer: This has been Travel Beyond presented by Destination Think. And you just heard from Signe Jungersted, CEO and Founding Partner at Group NAO in Copenhagen. We’ll include links to more resources on the blog for this episode at destinationthink.com. 

My co-producer is Sara Raymond de Booy. This episode has been produced and has theme music composed by me, David Archer. Lindsay Payne and Annika Rautiola provided production support. 

You can help more people find this show by subscribing and by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. 

On Travel Beyond, we highlight destinations that are global leaders, and we’re actively looking for the best examples of efforts to regenerate economies, communities, and ecosystems, so please do reach out if you have a story to share with us.

I’d love to hear from you, and I’ll see you next time.


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