Interview with Katja Moesgaard, CEO, VisitDenmark

Interview with Katja Moesgaard, CEO, VisitDenmark


What factors have led to the fast return of Denmark’s tourism sector and its record year in 2022?

Denmark swiftly recovered from the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The country effectively managed the situation by providing a conducive environment for businesses to promptly resume operations. The concerted effort led to a quick reopening of the tourism sector. During the period of crises and amid hotel closures, the community rallied together to overcome difficulties. We launched a campaign targeting Danish tourists within the country, which was an unusual approach for VisitDenmark as we typically aim to attract international and American tourists. The campaign successfully encouraged Danes to explore their own country, showcasing the charm of Danish hotels and local culture.

Tourism plays a pivotal role in driving growth, generating revenue and creating job opportunities throughout Denmark. Despite being underestimated at times, spending by international tourists in Denmark is considered a form of export. Remarkably, the tourism sector ranks as Denmark’s fourth-largest export. In 2022, the hospitality sector accounted for 62.9 million nights spent, of which international tourists accounted for 30.8 million — an impressive number for a country of just under 6 million people. Noteworthy is the 6.8% increase in international nights spent in 2022 compared to the previous record year of 2019. Denmark stands out as the only European country to experience a rise in international tourist numbers during this period, indicating a robust recovery from the pandemic and a sustained interest in Denmark as an international tourist destination. These positive outcomes are attributed to successful marketing and public relations campaigns that prioritized markets and leveraged knowledge, data and insights. The collaboration and consolidation efforts among key players in the Danish tourism industry have played a vital role in achieving these results.


What are VisitDenmark’s key responsibilities and what current marketing initiatives is the organization running?

VisitDenmark operates under the Ministry of Industry, Business, and Financial Affairs and is tasked with promoting Denmark as a premier destination for international travel. The organization functions as an international tourism board, with its primary objective to inspire individuals from across the globe to explore Denmark and discover its everyday wonders. We have marketing offices strategically positioned in Norway, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France, China, the UK and the USA. VisitDenmark works diligently to promote Denmark within the unique contexts of each location. Underpinning our promotional efforts is a unified brand strategy known as the Land of Everyday Wonder. This overarching narrative tells the story of Denmark that resonates with both our small-scale entities and the nation as a whole. While we consistently promote Denmark within the framework of the Land of Everyday Wonder brand, we also delve deeply into specific areas, local cities, cultures and unique experiences. Each campaign is meticulously crafted to align with our branding concept to ensure a cohesive visual identity. For instance, a campaign highlighting North Jutland will share the same visual framework and maintain a consistent look while capturing the distinct local essence of the region.

Our organizational structure comprises 19 destination companies situated in different locations across Denmark, such as Wonderful Copenhagen in the capital and a specific company for the North Sea region. This decentralized setup works through collaboration and knowledge sharing; we work in close cooperation on public relations and marketing campaigns. The overarching strategy, the Land of Everyday Wonder, unifies our efforts to showcase Denmark’s wonders and attract international tourists. Notably, we involve local communities in determining the best wonders to introduce and highlight.

VisitDenmark’s recent artificial intelligence (AI) campaign strategically capitalized on the hype surrounding AI at the outset of 2023. The innovative approach involved using renowned international artworks, such as the Mona Lisa and Van Gogh’s self-portrait, to suggest that travelers choose Denmark over witnessing iconic masterpieces around the world. The uniqueness of the campaign lies in both the scripts and visuals being generated entirely by AI. While recent years have seen the emergence of techniques like deepfake and motion synthesis to animate images, VisitDenmark’s campaign stands out as one of the first to seamlessly integrate both technologies by employing AI-generated scripts and visuals.


What unique experiences does Denmark offer to incoming tourists?

The country is often applauded for its warm and secure ambiance. It is a place where English is widely spoken, which makes it an inviting destination for world travelers. Denmark’s affable demeanor, pristine white sandy beaches, everyday wonders and world-class cuisine collectively distinguish the nation as an ideal place to visit. The destination caters to families, solo travelers and young couples alike. In contrast to being a destination centered around a singular attraction, Denmark prides itself on offering intimate and distinctive experiences across its natural offerings and culture. The central hub, Kastrup Airport, is situated near Copenhagen and serves not only as a gateway for international visitors but also as a pivotal hub for Northern Europe. Thanks to its compact size, Denmark is remarkably easy to navigate, with manageable distances compared to the vast expanses of the United States. Notably, you are never more than 32 miles away from the ocean.

Our Land of Everyday Wonder campaign encapsulates the Danish mentality and highlights the unique wonders that define the country. While Denmark may lack the grandeur of nature found in its northern neighbors, it compensates with charming details that characterize daily life. Trusting each other to pay at an unmanned farmer’s market booth and purchasing fresh fish directly from local fishermen at harbors are just a few of the everyday wonders awaiting visitors. Other major highlights include taking a dip in the clean canals of Copenhagen; basking in the sun with the locals at our harbors; embarking on the world’s tiniest cruise in Jutland that offers all-inclusive trips to small islands; immersing yourself in a state-of-the-art museum on Funen centered around the residence of the world-renowned Hans Christian Andersen; indulging in a stay at historic seaside hotels in Northern Jutland and North Zealand; and surfing in what we call Cold Hawaii on the northwest coast. American tourists in particular express a keen interest in high-quality experiences such as Denmark’s world-class culinary scene. The storytelling woven into Denmark’s fabric spans hundreds of years and is complemented by modern art to create a distinctive and unparalleled fusion. This unique approach to art and culture is a hallmark that extends across Denmark and contributes to our country’s special charm.


What has Denmark done to implement sustainability within its tourism offerings?

Denmark consistently ranks as one of the world’s most sustainable countries, and this commitment extends to our tourism sector where we proudly lead as one of the most sustainable travel destinations in the world. VisitDenmark’s vision is encapsulated in its branding, “Tourism you can live off and live with.” Our branding emphasizes the importance of promoting tourism that is not just sustainable but regenerative. We want tourism to have a positive impact on places visited. Working closely with local stakeholders in Denmark who are experts in identifying ways to make tourism beneficial and create positive impacts on local communities, we have transformed tourism into a force for social sustainability. The sector serves as a key employer, engaging individuals from diverse backgrounds and contributing to positive transformations in people’s lives. VisitDenmark collaborates with four distinct organizations specializing in coastal areas, major cities, trade conferences and business tourism. Through these partnerships we aim to coordinate efforts in ecotourism to collectively reduce carbon emissions. Equality is also paramount in our approach. Collaborative efforts involve active participation on boards to ensure close cooperation with all four organizations.

Sustainability is a core theme for Denmark, and we continually take action to showcase our commitment to ecotourism. An illustrative example is regenerative tourism on the West Coast, where tourists actively participate in collecting invasive oysters and helping native blue mussels thrive against invasive species. We have put a strategic emphasis on growing our ecotourism segment. This falls under the umbrella of enhancing sustainability within the tourism sector, which is a goal we have set for 2030. We encourage environmentally conscious activities, such as offering free kayak rides to tourists who engage in canal cleanup efforts in Copenhagen through the Green Kayak initiative. Notably, the organization has successfully removed 100 tons of trash from the canals since its inception in 2017. For an immersive experience, we invite American tourists to the West Coast to partake in oyster collection, followed by an evening tasting paired with champagne — an enjoyable way to contribute to ecological balance. Furthermore, we promote sustainable transportation options such as biking and public transport while taking into account Denmark’s manageable distances in comparison to the vastness of the USA. Additionally, our hotels champion ecofriendly measures and segregate trash for recycling. While this may seem commonplace, we take pride in being pioneers in this effort and actively showcase these sustainable practices to tourists to reinforce Denmark’s commitment to environmental responsibility.


How significant have new digital technologies been in enhancing Denmark as a tourist destination?

Denmark is a highly digital country. VisitDenmark is actively exploring the integration of AI as a valuable team player within our organization. Our recent AI-driven artwork campaign was a deliberate move to position ourselves at the forefront of this technology. This venture not only allowed us to pioneer AI in communications but also demonstrated our commitment to leveraging innovative tools to realize creative visions and effectively convey our messages in the tourism industry. Recently, VisitDenmark introduced VisitData, a digital platform that serves as a scalable ecosystem of tourism-relevant data. This platform equips stakeholders in the Danish tourism segment with knowledge and tools for informed decision making and prioritization of our key initiatives.

Divided into four distinct areas — the coast, meetings, big cities and VisitDenmark — we collaborate with our 19 destination companies to collect comprehensive data across Denmark. The objective is to utilize this data in a meaningful and relevant manner and ultimately enhance the experience for tourists, benefit local societies and foster economic growth. Our ongoing commitment involves continuous efforts to gather the right data to improve our country for tourists and locals alike.


How significant is the USA as a source market for tourism and what kind of footprint does VisitDenmark have within the North American market?

The United States holds a position of high priority for VisitDenmark. We actively cultivate this market through daily direct flights. We prioritize ensuring American tourists have convenient access to Denmark throughout the week. Although American visitors constitute a smaller proportion of international tourists, their significant daily expenditures and penchant for quality accommodations, fine dining experiences and museum visits make them a cornerstone of the Danish tourism economy. As of 2023, Americans are the second-largest tourism group in Copenhagen following Germans, which is a notable increase when compared to our record year in 2019.

Our aspiration for the future is to encourage American tourists to extend their stays and allow them to immerse themselves in the myriad of offerings in Denmark. The compact size of our country facilitates easy exploration, and we hope Americans will venture beyond the city limits to discover the rich tapestry of experiences Denmark has to offer. The opening of a new direct route from Philadelphia to Copenhagen by American Airlines in 2024 is a promising development, and we look forward to collaborating with them on marketing campaigns and public relations initiatives. This enhanced connectivity is crucial in expanding our reach and attracting more tourists to the market.

VisitDenmark’s office in the USA plays a pivotal role. We engage in various fields to strengthen our presence and influence, including increasing travel trade and building relationships with American tour operators and travel agencies, marketing through strategic campaigns across multiple platforms and enhancing public relations by establishing robust connections with major publication outlets and journalists. This multifaceted approach ensures that Denmark remains in the spotlight and fosters a positive image to encourage American tourists to visit.


What are VisitDenmark’s current aims and areas of focus?

Collaboration between key stakeholders in Denmark’s tourism landscape is the cornerstone of our success. Continuing the synergy between these essential players is imperative in presenting the best version of Denmark to attract tourists from the USA. Our aim is to spotlight our sustainable practices and commitment to ecotourism and make it an integral part of our narrative. While some of our efforts may go unnoticed until experienced firsthand, we must continue articulating our initiatives and showcase the unique and impactful contributions Denmark makes in terms of regenerative experiences, local community support and overall responsibility. This distinctive approach is something we take pride in. Our vision extends beyond seasonal tourism, with aspirations to be an alluring destination throughout the entire year and avoid concentration during specific periods to mitigate issues of overcrowding in particular areas. I invite everyone to see what Denmark has to offer. Do not miss out and come experience the Land of Everyday Wonder for yourselves!



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