Blogs

remote worker

Working remotely (and travelling) during the pandemic

By Franz Buhr, Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, University of Lisbon

As the COVID-19 pandemic disseminated and intensified remote work practices, more and more professionals became interested in spending a few months at pleasant destinations where confinement restrictions were not so strict. These ‘pandemic travellers’ add to existing mobility patterns of digital nomads – professionals who work while travelling. Lisbon has increasingly attracted mobile remote workers, who relocate to the city for short periods with the goal of combining work, travel and leisure.

During (and even before) the pandemic, a number of countries established schemes facilitating the inflow of remote workers, such as Croatia, Estonia, Barbados, among others. In December 2020, Greece joined the global hunt for digital nomads as its parliament passed a new law allowing digital nomads to half their income tax. Although there is no national programme aiming to specifically attract remote workers to Portugal, digital nomads have demonstrated interest in relocating to places like Lisbon, Ericeira or the Madeira islands.

Long before ‘pandemic travellers’ started heading to Lisbon to enjoy its mild weather and the possibilities of working from cafés or coworking spaces (which was impossible in Belgium or Germany, for instance), digital nomads had already ranked Lisbon as a favourite destination. In 2018, the economy magazine Forbes placed Lisbon as the fourth ideal city for digital nomads (after Bali, London, and Chiang Mai). These professionals seem to be attracted to Lisbon’s sunny weather, fast internet, walkability, and local infrastructure to work from. In November 2020, during the first phase of the pandemic in Portugal, a special decree was passed authorising hotels (which were mostly empty) to adapt their restaurants and lobbies as coworking spaces, signalling a growing demand for shared offices by digital nomads and other remote professionals.

Although some prefer to work from ‘home’ (usually a short-term rental with high speed connection), digital nomads often work from cafés and coworking spaces. As temporary residents, they seem to blur long-established distinctions between tourists and residents (or between outsiders and locals), as they find accommodation through digital platforms, but also become knowledgeable about local trends using mobile technologies to learn about nightlife, restaurants and the city’s ‘hidden gems’. Moreover, as their mobilities are motivated by the possibility to combine work and lifestyle, digital nomads usually move to places where they maximize purchase power, thus adding pressure to local markets. In this sense, the impact of digital nomads upon local neighbourhoods deserves further research, especially as it may intersect with wider urban change patterns, such as gentrification and commercial landscape transformation.

Rents for students

Housing the student population after Covid. Inclusive recovery strategies or business as usual?

by Loris Servillo and Samantha Cenere from Politecnico di Torino

Student mobilities present interesting similarities to touristic ones, such as their relevance for urban economies and their distorting effects on the housing market. The Covid pandemic has shed light on the dependence of some cities on university students, forcing them to implement ad hoc recovery strategies.

The housing market of major European cities has been undergoing major reconfiguration processes, for which an important driver of change is the impact that mobile populations (tourists, students, temporary workers) exert on long-term residents’ access to decent and affordable housing. Albeit rarely acknowledged, in particular university students represent for many European cities a relevant segment of the market whose effect in this respect could be considered partially similar to the ones of tourists.

Two main trends of urban transformations are triggered by student housing dynamics, which eventually may produce conflicts and negative externalities for local communities. On the one hand, the role of competitors played by students in the long-term housing market. On the other, the increasing relevance played by PBSAs (Purpose Built Student Accommodation) as a major real-estate investment.

The Covid pandemic has made evident the increasing level of dependence on mobile populations (especially tourists) characterising some urban economies and it has shown the vulnerability of a housing market dominated – particularly in some cities in the global touristic circuits – by short-rental accommodations. The exceptional stop to mobilities is showing interesting process of reconfiguration as well as unexpected windows of opportunities to implement positive reforms for local residents. First, strategies that broadly addressed these two types of categories (tourists and students) are becoming sharper through market operators’ shift of attention. Short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb have supported their clients in reconfiguring their offer toward medium-term rent while it seems most likely that students are the first mobile group that will be back in town.

Second, declared intentions of reforming the housing supply seems floating around. A recent article in the Guardian listed a series of initiatives (or rather good intentions) to take advantage of this opportunity. The case of Lisbon made headlines, due to the city’s launch of a programme aiming at converting touristic flats into affordable housing and the very strong tensions caused by tourism in the housing accessibility for local residents, even if its size of intervention was very soon downscaled.

In this frame, looking at various initiatives currently popping up in many Italian cities, another trend seems to be at work; namely, the effort to implement strategies to bring students ‘back in town’.

Indeed, many Italian cities have been working to either expand or sustain the offer of student accommodation. In Parma, an important university town, the City has launched a rent support programme for low-income students, thanks to a partnership with the Region and the University that enabled to create a dedicated fund. The Piedmont Region launched a public tender to convert tourist accommodation facilities into student halls, aiming at increasing by 260 units the offer of bed places allocated to students in need in Turin. In Bologna, a partnership between the City and the University aims at transforming tourist accommodation facilities into student halls and, in the meantime, providing financial support to low-income students. Venice has gone further, directly involving the renown short-term rental platform Airbnb in the conversion of flats formerly rent to tourists into student accommodation. Indeed, the Country Manager of Airbnb has expressed interest into the possibility of expending the company’s offer to medium-term rents. Pursuing a different path, Milan looks at the business of PBSAs to build a city attractive to students. The city’s strategy to bring back students (especially international ones) while paying attention to provide spaces that are compliant with the social distance prescriptions consists in the provision of 13 new PBSAs, for a total amount of 5,000 new bed places for students.

The influence of foreigners’ buzzing on TripAdvisor ranking of restaurants in Venice: implications for the sustainability of over-touristed heritage cities

By Andrea Ganzaroli, Ivan De Noni and Michelle Bonera

How much restaurants’ reputation in crowdsourcing systems is influenced by foreign tourists in overtouristed cities? Click to learn more about the reliability of rating systems based on crowdsourcing in overtouristed cities.

Are rating systems based on crowdsourcing capable to discriminate the quality of restaurants in overtouristed cities? When it is about lunchtime or dinnertime in a foreign tourist city, we promptly take our phone out of the pocket and start to type on the screen looking for a good restaurant where to enjoy the quality of local food. We start to compare ratings and reviews provided by alternative apps and then, finally, we make our decision. However, who did decide the reputation of your restaurant? To what extent the evaluation of other foreigners has influenced the reputation of your restaurant?

The answers to those questions are particularly relevant in the case of overtouristed cities, in which a large share of customers’ reviews is from foreign people who may lack the know-how to evaluate the quality of local food. Furthermore, those people may be positively influenced by the atmosphere, their being on vacation, or by the judges of the others (herd behavior). Therefore, they may tend to overrate the quality of restaurants and that of the food served. This may lead to systematic distortion in the crowding system ranking the quality of restaurants and, more in general, the cultural goods offered in overtouristed cities. The consequences of those systematic distortions may be crowding out quality from overtouristed cities. A phenomenon that we have learned to call touristification.

To verify the likelihood of such an occurrence, Ganzaroli, De Noni, and Bonera have run an experiment based on the data collected from TripAdvisor on 575 restaurants in Venice. Their findings confirm that foreigners systematically overrate the quality of restaurants in Venice compare to Italians. Furthermore, this attitude significantly affects restaurants’ reputation and ranking on TripAdvisor. However, Italian does not mean Venetian, but, likely, he or she may know better about the quality of Venetian food.

If you want to learn more about this research, you may click here and download the full paper published in Current Issue in Tourism.

digitalization for tourism

The challenge of digitalisation for a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive tourism in Europe under the smart destination approach

By Josep Ivars Baidal from Universidad Alicante

The challenge of digitalisation has been accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, a process that tends to be integrated into the broader concept of smart tourism as a way to progress towards a more sustainable, competitive and inclusive tourism in Europe.

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have been a major factor of disruption in the tourism sector even before the Covid-19 crisis. Digitalisation is perceived as a key challenge to improve competitiveness of tourism firms. Nevertheless, the tourism industry is a highly diverse and complex sector that integrates different subsectors (Accommodation, Travel Agencies and Tour Operators, Food & Beverage, Transport Services, Entertainment and Recreation Attractions, etc) which comprise mostly small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). This complexity together with the lack of accurate data hinders the identification of the exact degree of technology adoption in tourism, but some facts are quite relevant:

  • The higher technology adoption by large companies and the risk of widening the gap between large and small companies.
  • The existence of geographical differences, taking the level of digitalisation of each European country as an approximate indicator of the degree of digitalisation of its tourism industry. According to the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) (https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/digital-economy-and-society-index-desi), the most advanced countries are Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark, while Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Poland have the lowest scores on the index.
  • The need to revise the perception of tourism as a sector with low digital intensity, as recent studies highlight that the Accommodation and Travel Agency & Tour Operator subsectors are above other industrial activities in digital intensity. On the other hand, subsectors like Food & Beverage are at the bottom of the digital intensity indexes.
  • Technology adoption in tourism is mostly related to marketing and distribution and is less oriented towards productivity improvement, while more advanced technologies (big data, customer relationship marketing, etc.) are underrepresented compared to other economic activities.

However, digitalisation goes beyond the mere adoption of ICT and new sources of data. Dredge et al. (2018) (https://clustercollaboration.eu/news/digitalisation-tourism-depth-analysis-challenges-and-opportunities) describe the journey towards digitalisation of SMEs from an initial stage of weak digitalisation, characterized by an individual mindset, to a strong stage representing smart tourism, as a connected mindset that promotes a high level of innovation and ICT systems interoperability. Thus, the emergent smart paradigm becomes a core element for tourism destination management.

Digitalisation is among the four categories of the European Capital of Smart Tourism initiative (https://smarttourismcapital.eu/), together with sustainability, accessibility and cultural heritage and creativity. Best practices in digitalisation from a city perspective include facilitating information for specific target groups, collecting information for smarter management, and improving physical and psychological accessibility through innovation. This sectoral objectives should be complemented, within a framework of urban governance, by the potential of using technology to analyze and prevent the processes of social exclusion caused by tourism-related mobilities, a goal that inspires the SMARTDEST research project.

The European Union reaction to the Covid-19 crisis and the strategies for recovery, summarized in the European Commission Communication, “Tourism and transport in 2020 and beyond” (COM(2020) 550 final) (https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52020DC0550&from=EN), have reinforced the need to work towards the smart management of tourism flows and the digitalisation of local companies to become more resilient and competitive. The revival of tourism must involve new management approaches in order to truly evolve towards more sustainable and inclusive models of development.

Venice commerce affected by Covid

Venice commerce before and after COVID

By Lucas Fernandes, Nathan Morin, Taylor Ostrum, Kavim Bhatnagar from Worcester Polytechnic Institute

This project’s mission is to provide a web-application tool that visualizes and analyzes trends in Venetian Commerce over time by organizing archival data provided by the Venice Project Center (VPC). The WPI students have deployed a platform that future collaborators will be able to iterate on to help assess Venice’s economy.

These are their main objectives:

  1. Consolidate data that was previously collected on Venetian stores
  2. Design and test a comprehensive and flexible web-application
  3. Analyze archival WPI data on Venetian commerce
  4. Plan for the future of the web application

Shop data provides an invaluable look into the bigger picture of a city’s economic status. Being the main contributors to the production of goods and services in an economy, shops can act as an economic indicator. In the case of Venice, Italy, tourism plays a big role in its economy as approximately 25% of shops cater toward tourists alone. This socially excludes local Venetians and causes a divide between them and visitors. However, for the first time in history, tourists are no longer able to visit the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, Venetian commerce has been greatly affected.

In order to see how Venice’s economy has been affected, it is imperative to understand and visualize its commerce history, which has been quantified for over 15 years by the VPC. Starting in 2004, eight WPI teams have collected shop data from various sestieri all over Venice, taking note of attributes such as shop names, addresses, and geographical location.

For this project, a team of VPC students worked with SMARTDEST and SerenDPT. The latter is a Venetian start-up organization in charge of the Venice case study of the SMARTDEST project. With their help, a web application was built from the ground up. This app permits to visualize the history of Venetian commerce.

In order to do this, the team found, consolidated, and cleaned eight datasets on shops. This process took all previously recorded shop records, 11,312 to be exact, and unified them into one collective dataset, which now houses all shop data ever collected by the VPC. This work was done remotely, over the course of seven weeks, with the help of their advisors, Professors Fabio Carrera and Jennifer deWinter. The dataset houses three subsets of data, “Venice Shops”, “Store Locations”, and “Venice Shops Images”. Lastly, the students also found and consolidated any and all photos of shops and stored them in our “Venice Shops Images” dataset. Once cleaned, this data was then visualized on the web application. It allows users to filter shop data by the year the data was collected, the type of shop, as well as filter shops by their target audience.

Want to know more about our project? Check our website and learn about Venetian shops on a real-time basis!

Curated by Giulia Speri

Empowering everyone in the tourism market

A step closer to empower everyone in the tourism market

By Tadej Rogelja, Dejan Križaj, Miha Bratec & Peter Kopić, from University of Primorska, Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica

An innovative tourism experience marketplace and startup LocalsFromZero grew out of the global TourismFromZero initiative formed at the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Initiative’s goal was to understand the struggles of the tourism industry and gather fresh ideas on how to start tourism ”from zero”.

One of the first and most prominent ideas endorsed by the founders of TourismFromZero was LocalsFromZero. The students of the Faculty for Tourism Studies Turistica have developed a brand-new business model of collaborative economy intended for offering local experiences which pursues 7 key objectives:

  • more inclusive, balanced, sustainable and regenerative tourism mobility
  • empowerment and visibility of overlooked local tourism stakeholders of all kind
  • dispersion of tourism
  • preserving local tradition, knowledge, habits and heritage
  • use of (urgently needed) advanced reservation technologies
  • digital empowerment of locals (through education)
  • promoting digital literacy

In recent years (especially during the pandemic), technology and digitalization has advanced at an unimaginable pace that is hard to keep up with. People (especially the young) are getting more and more used to it and it accompanies them at every turn (shopping, booking, searching, sharing, networking, etc.). Surely, its presence will only increase in the future. On the other hand, online absence, the improper use of the internet and the lack of online promotion on the supply side lead to invisibility, unattractiveness, loss of opportunities and revenue streams (Cai et al., 2019; Nugroho et al., 2017). According to our findings (we have conducted more than 20 workshops with local stakeholders all across Slovenia in the last year) this is especially true for smaller local providers mostly working in crafts sector and other creative industries (artisans, associations, clubs, etc.), as they lack financial resources, ICT skills/knowledge, time and support but still want to become part of the tourism market, get in touch with tourists, become bookable and generate additional income from their unique activities. Such actors are often overlooked, even though they contribute greatly to the preservation of local (past and present) traditions, cultures and environments, both in rural and urban areas. Normally, DMOs should take care of them, but they too often lack the resources, staff and time to take care all in the best possible way.

How does the LocalsFromZero model solve the above struggles?

Through its marketplace they provide all mentioned stakeholders with a supportive #LocalsFromZero environment, knowledge sharing and professional advice. They do this with the help of local LFZ Scouts (mostly tourism students stranded in their home municipalities during the Covid-19 lockdowns) who ensure that stories from their home regions are found, told and supported. The LFZ Scouts take care of reservations, administration and everything else that local providers lack. So far, our network consists of 22 officially registered and dedicated scouts who search for these local providers in their (mostly rural) regions. They have already uploaded 45 local & authentic experiences from Slovenia to our booking platform. Many more are in the pipeline, including from neighbouring Croatia and other countries. To achieve all this, the LocalsFromZero team is intensively working with the public, private and civil sectors of society on many levels.

Initiatives like LocalsFromZero can help build a stronger, more resilient tourism with their bottom-up concept and bring tourism back to its roots. The way we travel will greatly affect the regeneration of tourism.

A picture of a man with his smart phone in the hands

Tourism in the smartphone age

Authors: Michal Farkash, Yael Bulis, Amit Birenboim Tel Aviv University

Smartphones have changed the way we live and travel, and the use of mobile applications has become essential for travellers around the world. While many mobility apps used by tourists are general in their scope, there are some apps that were developed to adjust urban tourists’ needs. Lately, we completed a process of mapping and categorizing current available mobile applications that contribute to the decentralization of services and information, as well as the usage patterns and impact of these technologies on the behaviour of permanent and temporary populations. Findings suggest that many apps used by tourists have more similarities than differences.

The study identified 353 apps of two types; global apps that are used worldwide and local apps that are used in the four case study cities of SMARTDEST project (Barcelona, Amsterdam, Venice, Jerusalem). The apps were reviewed based on predefined criteria, including their relevance to travellers’ location choices and mobility flows in cities, and the global or local level of scope of usage (at least 500,000 users for global apps and 1,000 users for local apps). Most of the categories for classification and rating were numerically classifiable once, such as ‘how central are navigation services on the app’, ‘to what extent does the app encourages active mobility’, and ‘to what extent does the app contributes to overcrowding in cities’. The ranking was based on existing information regarding each app, from scientific papers to app user ratings and reviews, and was evaluated subjectively by two independent raters, who showed strong inter-rater reliability between them.

Using a factor analysis, we identified seven latent variables, including: (1) Destination Orientation; (2) Local Impact; (3) App’s Efficacy for Tourists; (4) Local Exploration & Interaction; (5) Social Influence; (6) Mobility Cost; (7) Developer. In the following step we performed a cluster analysis that identified five different categories of applications, including: (1) ‘Social Media’, (2) Communication & influence’` (3) ‘The Value of Local Know-How’, (4) ‘Easy Mobility & its Impact’ (5) ‘The Individual Navigator’, (6) ‘Get Around, Interact, Impact’, (7) ‘Super Traveller’. Each cluster has distinctive characteristics and has a different potential impact on choices made by tourists’, or locals everyday lives. In the future, we intend to perform a more in-depth investigation of the characteristics of each app cluster and their effectiveness., which will yield insights for both tourism managers at different levels and for application developers

SMARTDEST updated project presentation on Open Access Government Magazine

We have published a new article presenting our project on the Open Access Government magazine.

SMARTDEST tackles arguably one of the greatest challenges for urban areas and metropolitan regions in Europe: that of becoming sites of attraction for ‘temporary’ populations.

Cities have been historically the hub of multiple mobilities. Yet, the acceleration and compression of such mobilities, a fundamental trait of our age, is posing an unprece­dented threat to urban cohesion. Cities need to ‘make space’ for an ever-increasing number of visitors, short-stayers, expats, and the work­ers, goods, vehicles, infrastructure that facilitate their arrival and dwelling; and often, this subtracts to the opportunities, affordabilities, quality of life of ‘stable’ resident populations. One such mobilities is tourism. The attraction of tourists and the development of a visitor economy has been one of the fundamental dimensions of contemporary urban development. Yet, urban communities all over Europe recently started to feel that ever-growing tourist activity is turning into a hindrance for their way of life and a serious threat for their wellbeing.

In this moment of COVID pandemic emergency, the temporary blockage of tourism mobilities worldwide has also uncovered another key aspect of the problematic relationship between cities and tourism: the extreme dependence of urban areas from the attraction of large masses of visiting consumers.

The full article is available at the following Link

People qu

Past and Future of Venice’s Tourism Industry

Authors: Madison Di Vico, Martin McCormack, Lucas Micheels, Lauren Revene, Joe Sorrenti

The picturesque city of Venice is a destination well-known for its architectural and cultural allure. This unique lifestyle attracted roughly 26 to 30 million tourists annually prior to COVID-19. For decades, the number of tourist beds available in Italy consistently increased. This roughly 16% annual climb did not come without consequences. From 2000 to 2020, the resident population dropped from 76,007 to 51,550. As of 2019, there were more tourist beds available than residents. As a result, UNESCO gave Venice a deadline of 2021 to mitigate the environmental effects of tourism on the city or risk officially adding it to the endangered list.

However, these trends rapidly changed when COVID19 spread across the world. In February of 2020 Venice was placed under lockdown to combat the influx of victims that plagued the nation. As a means to remedy the damage to tourism and local businesses, the SmartDest Project had chosen to sponsor a proposal from SerenDPT that focuses on solutions to issues of dependency and deterioration of Venetian. The goal was to analyze tourism and the effects that it had on the economy, environment and culture in Venice as well as to create policy to usher in sustainable tourism. In doing this a team of VPC students form the Worcester Polytechnic institute worked to supply SerenDPT with pre-COVID socioeconomic trends regarding tourism; to aid in the development of a tool to automatically collect real-time tourism data; and engage with stakeholders in tourism and plan an event for stakeholders to meet and discuss sustainable tourism.

The individual stakeholders all have problems specific to their discipline and with varying severity. In order to help these stakeholders, develop a more sustainable tourist experience in Venice, the first passage was to analyze pre-COVID socioeconomic data. The research proved the fragility of the tourism industry, making it evident that it needed to be monitored. This led the team to renovate and repurpose the Venice Dashboard. Designing the new dashboard moved it from a tourist focused program to a researcher and policy maker oriented one. The new design presents data found from websites and API’s (application programming interface) which will be displayed in real time. The data will be displayed in various forms such as interactive maps, bar and line graphs and charts. In doing this the functionality of the website increases, as researchers will have a one stop spot for all socio-economic tourist data.

As per the SmartDest grant, they organized multiple stakeholder events to be conducted in Venice with the goal of discussing tourist related issues to help bring officials and administrators to make policy. The events have been organized into 5 groups each of which will have members from associations discussing issues in their industry: hospitality, tourism, transportation, housing and commerce association. We hope that this work will be beneficial to the grants goal of upgrading pan-European policy, influencing the issues of mobilization and exclusion brought on by tourism.

 

Want to know more about our project? Check our website and learn about tourism in Venice on a real-time basis!

 

Curated by Giulia Speri

The end of whitewashing mass tourism?

Our latest research indicates recent shifts in the public and political discourse on mass tourism in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Key events marked turning points signalling that economic benefits no longer offset tourism-related impacts.

by Lukas Alexander

Last month we completed a report examining the socio-economic and political context of Amsterdam, Barcelona, Jerusalem and Venice. Crucial events and occurrences were identified to understand how tourism and related issues developed in the cities over the past two decades. This analysis will constitute the foundation for our future empirical research in SmartDest.

A common element stood out across the cities, when comparing the four case studies. At the turn of the century, tourism has been framed and debated predominantly in a positive way stressing economic advantages and infrastructural developments. However, in each city there appears to be a critical juncture or turning point, where the public and political discourse on urban tourism shifted. Economic benefits were no longer able to offset the issues engendered by mass tourism. To name some of these key events:

-In Amsterdam, the IAmsterdam sign a former symbol of opening the city to tourism, was removed in 2018 indicating the end of tourism growth-oriented policies.

-In Barcelona, public opinion on tourism tipped over in 2015 following the election of a radical left candidate who openly tackled the problem of overtourism in the city.

-In Jerusalem and Venice, it is difficult to pin down a turning point in the discourse as both cities are characterised by an interwoven political and economic context with countless stakeholders involved. However, the findings show how inhabitants increasingly mobilise against tourism impacts.

Although representing only the tip of the iceberg, these events express a fundamental process of change in the discourse. Critical voices and initiatives existed before the turning point, but they appeared to be drowned out by pro-tourism stakeholders.

In the next step, we will further examine these issues and consider the effects of the current crisis onto tourism. In early Spring 2021, we will dig deeper in public debates on tourism with a detailed discourse analysis.

#iamsterdam #barcelona #jerusalem #venice # overtourism #sustainabletourism #travel #smartdest