Tourism Academy 2023 Highlights

Reflect on the inspirational sessions, immersive destination experiences, and exciting networking opportunities from Tourism Academy 2023.

Thank you to all the attendees, speakers, sponsors, and partners whose contributions led to the triumphant success of Tourism Academy 2023 in Mesa, Arizona. Mark your calendars for next year's event, set to take place from June 10th to 13th, 2024, in Detroit, MI.

As we reflect on this year's journey, here are some of the standout moments and captivating snapshots from Tourism Academy 2023:


Walking Tour

To get a lay of the land, we took a walking tour of Downtown Mesa, Arizona led by the Visit Mesa team. Home to vintage shops, quaint sidewalk cafés, over 20 vibrant murals, more than 30 public art sculptures, a mix of acclaimed restaurants and some of the region's top attractions and museums, Downtown Mesa is just as eclectic as the natural landscape that surrounds the area.


Morning Run

Starting the conference off on the right foot, members of the Tempest and Visit Mesa teams led attendees on a relaxed 3-mile run. This invigorating activity provided a perfect kickoff to the day, offering participants the chance to explore Mesa and discover local attractions.

Opening Keynote from Alex Heimann

Tempest CEO Alex Heimann set the stage for Tourism Academy 2023 with a warm welcome during the opening keynote. He delved into the prevailing trends in the travel sphere, encompassing the perks of ChatGPT and the realm of artificial intelligence, announcements of new features coming to Craft CMS and iDSS, and ways to harness the power of our DMO website for the good of the community.

Interactive Session

We did a little networking and engaged in a lively game of “Get to Know the Other Pros.” Conference attendees got the opportunity to exchange best practices, thought-provoking strategies, and innovative ideas. Discussions ranged from industry standards and marketing techniques to novel approaches for community engagement, fostering a collaborative atmosphere that enriched our shared knowledge.

Autism Accessibility for Destinations Panel featuring Allison Brooks, Meredith Telkin, and Armani Williams

Our host city, Visit Mesa, became America's first ever autism certified city and continues to prioritize accessible and inclusive tourism. On Day 2 we heard from Alison Brooks, Vice President, Destination Experience & Advocacy at Visa Mesa, Meredith Telkin, President of the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), and Armani Williams, trailblazing NASCAR driver openly diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as they discussed the process of certification and importance for all destinations to be more accessible to travelers.

Opening Reception + Visit Mesa Presentation at Mesa Arts Center

Along with a myriad of local vendors, cuisine, and entertainment, the Opening Reception at the Mesa Arts Center highlighted the best that the area has to offer. Armani Williams made a return appearance, this time suited up in full NASCAR attire. After enjoying live music and local food outside in the courtyard, the group headed in for a welcome ceremony that highlighted some of Visit Mesa’s top contributors among community initiatives.


Goat Yoga

We always try to have a morning yoga class for those early-risers but we invited some furry friends along this year in hopes of getting more people to ignore the snooze button and add a few laughs to their morning routines. Not only did we get in our morning exercise, but our group of goat instructors from Arizona Goat Yoga couldn’t have been a more well behaved, cuddly bunch who left us with some unforgettable experiences.

Greg DeShields Breakfast Keynote

On Day 2, we welcomed Greg DeShields, Executive Director of Tourism Diveristy Matters, as he discussed The Fundamentals of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and helped provide a groundwork for understanding DEI and its place in the travel and tourism industry, as well as an overview of some of the top trends in the realm of DEI facing tourism today.

Adam Sacks Lunch Keynote

Adam Sacks from Tourism Economics hit the stage and gave us a compelling “playlist” of the latest views on the economy, the mindset of travelers, and expectations for the evolution of travel in the midst of continuing inflation and fears of a recession.

Party at The Nile

In typical Tourism Academy fashion, the conference reached its crescendo with an electrifying live performance by the Tempest Band, featuring special guest appearances from many of our talented conference attendees. There is no shortage of talented people in our midst each year but this year was one for the books. We sang, we danced, we infused every note with exhilarating camaraderie and most of all … we had a blast doing it.

Lip Sync Battle

Our inaugural Tourism Academy Lip Sync Battle tore up the stage at the Nile while Tempest staff and conference attendees battled their hearts out competing for the title of top performance. It was an epic journey filled with the Village People, the B52’s, and even an appearance from Godzilla.


Jack Johnson Morning Keynote

In an inspiring keynote address, Jack Johnson, Chief Advocacy Officer of Destinations International, emphasized the vital role of destination organizations within their communities. Johnson's insights left the audience with a deeper understanding of the profound impact that tourism promotion can have on communities when approached with a sense of purpose and commitment.

Breakout Sessions

One of the highlights of this year's conference was undoubtedly the diverse range of Breakout Sessions throughout the three days. Notably, this year marked a milestone for the Tourism Academy with the largest number of sessions ever offered. The sheer breadth of topics covered ensured that everyone left with a wealth of new knowledge and fresh perspectives. A special shout-out to all the clients and partners who bravely took the podium as presenters this year! These sessions were an integral part of this year's conference, offering a rich insights, strategies, and ideas to propel the industry forward. We hope you had the chance to attend some of these sessions, and if not, we're already looking forward to what next year will bring.

Thanks again to all those who joined us for a collaborative, educational, and memorable Tourism Academy 2023. For those returning for another year of adventure, innovation, and unforgettable experiences — save the date for Tourism Academy 2024, slated for June 10th through 13th, in Detroit, MI. We can’t wait to see you there!

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