In the period 25-29 August 2019, Varna hosted the 69th Annual Conference of the International Association of Scientific Experts in Tourism (AIEST), the world’s oldest organization of scientists and practitioners in the field of tourism.
More than 40 recognized tourism experts from 16 countries have discussed the global challenges of tourism and hospitality. 26 plenary reports were distributed in 7 scientific sessions, focusing on topics such as Sustainability in Tourism and Hospitality, Destination Management, Consumer Behavior, Business Models and Management and more.
The working part of the conference started with an industrial discussion dedicated to Varna as a tourist destination. In addition to the city’s extensive experience in the development of the industry, the undeniable potential and the unique combination of natural, historical, cultural and educational resources, some of the challenges and steps required to achieving visible and sustainable outcomes in tourism and hospitality were outlined. In the opinion of the event’s host, Prof. Stanislav Ivanov – Vice Rector (Research) at Varna University of Management and a member of the AIEST Committee – more practical training in the education of students in the field of tourism is necessary and universities should attract as lecturers more practitioners from the business. A major re-organization is also needed to improve the quality of products and services in order to attract more solvent tourists. Among the recommendations of the experts are the development of long-term marketing strategies, widening the range of services offered, promoting the development of alternative forms of tourism, increasing the accessibility of the city, through the implementation of new regular airlines and parking spaces.
What are the current expectations, needs and requirements of the users of tourist services, how to reduce the amount of waste, how tourism meets modern environmental standards, how climate changes will affect tourism, will artificial intelligence and robotics solve the problem of lack of personnel and a number of other up-to-date topics were discussed by the recognized experts.
The report of the Professor of Intelligent Systems in Service and Head of Department of Hospitality at University of Surrey, UK Prof. Iis Tussyadiah on the topic “Can we create a sustainable future with intelligent machines?” was of great interest and provoked a productive discussion. Prof. Tussyadiah’s research interest centers around the applications and implications of artificial intelligence, particularly in the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors. Since 2018 she is the President of the International Federation for IT and Travel & Tourism (IFITT), as well as a founding member of Alliance for Innovators and Researchers in Tourism and Hospitality (AIRTH).
Among the speakers and official guests of the conference were Prof. Dr. Harald Pechlaner – AIEST President and Prof. Dr. Christian Laesser – AIEST Secretary General, who described the event as “exceptional” and highly productive. All participants unanimously expressed their sincere gratitude for the high level of organization and expressed their fascination with Bulgaria, the service and the level of the tourist products in the country.
In addition to sharing research experience, the host Prof. Ivanov involved all guests in a game to promote Varna as a tourist destination through social networks. Within the framework of the organized socio-cultural program, all participants danced Bulgarian folklore dances, tasted traditional culinary temptations and got to know Bulgaria as a destination for golf tourism.