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

Map of Europe dispalying the top 10 routes

Opportunity to travel in a more sustainable way

Floris de Haan and Susan Vermeulen

Erasmus Centre for Urban, Port and Transport Economics (UPT), Erasmus University Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

Since March 2020, the European airline industry has been heavily challenged. According to the IATA the demand in Europe has dropped over 70% compared to 2019 and the current losses for 2020 are estimated at $26.9 billion. According to IATA Chair, Alexandre de Juniac, the financial support of government was crucial to prevent several bankruptcies. IATA expects European airlines to have highrer revenues at the end of 2021 in the scenario of a widespread available vaccine.

European airlines rely heavily on international markets for revenue since there is tough competition on the short-haul European markets. According to Air France-KLM’s annual reports, in 2018 Air France suffered a € 189 million loss in the domestic network, after which it was decided to reduce capacity on domestic flights by 15% by the end of 2021. In the Lufthansa annual report of 2019, yields fell by 4.4% mainly due to the tough competition in the Germany and Austria markets. Lufthansa felt the intense competition and over-capacity on the short-haul European routes as well.

During the first months of the pandemic, the European Commission decided that airlines no longer must use 80% of their slots to secure slots up. Accordingly, airlines do not have to fly with almost empty aircrafts just to conserve their slots. This decision has been extended up to March 2021. But what to do with the slot release when networks are being reinstated?

Looking at the top 10 aviation markets between cities in Europe with the highest number of passengers in 2018, we observe Map of Europe dispalying the top 10 routesa lot of domestic movements.  There are only 2 intra-EU routes, while 8 out of 10 routes serve domestic markets. A train journey is a realistic option for 6 out of 10 flight routes. A realistic option means that the average duration of a train journey does not exceed 1.5 times the flight. The Madrid – Barcelona route is still heavily served by plane (6,758 daily passengers on average), while the train connection is faster or comparable to the plane.

The top two routes are both in France, the number one being the Paris – Toulouse route. In 2018, about 60 flights a day were operated on this route compared to 23 train connections.

Suppose the capacity of a train is about 375 people, while that of a plane it is about 180 people. This indicates that there is a total capacity for 19,425 people on daily bases to travel between Paris and Toulouse by air or rail. But how many people normally travel daily between Paris and Toulouse?

Estimates show that, excluding car, 14,000 people travel daily between Paris and Toulouse. The load factor of an aircraft on this route is about 80% and that of a French TGV train around 67%. About 28% of the total capacity was unused in 2018 and for the time being there is enough space to travel more by train and less by plane. Another example is the Berlin-Frankfurt route. It has an estimated capacity of 17,475 travelers, while only an estimated 12,000 people travel daily between the two cities (excluding motorists). This implies an underutilization of 31%. The load factor of an aircraft is about 75% on this route and for DB long-distance trains around 55%.

According to the basics of demand and supply, at perfect competition an equilibrium will be set, and overcapacity will disappear. However, Air France has lost about € 717 million on domestic routes since 2013 suggesting that an equilibrium has never been reached.

If countries cannot manage to reduce the high number of passengers and capacity on domestic air markets themselves, how should this be executed in a European context? In any case, let the current tumble as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak could be a turning point in how EU member states deal with domestic and intra-European air traffic. Let Ursula von Leyen and Frans Timmermans return airport slots, which are now protected, only to those flights that serve markets for which the train is not a realistic alternative. Take this opportunity an give the train a prominent role in the future of Europe.




A summary of this article was published in Het Financieel Dagblad 24th of May 2020.


SMARTDEST, una risposta all’esclusione sociale nelle città turistiche

Negli ultimi anni la crescente penetrazione del turismo e di altre forme di mobilities come studenti fuorisede e internazionali, lavoratori stagionali, digital nomads,  nella vita quotidiana delle città ha iniziato a produrre diverse forme di conflitti, tensioni e paradossi:  l’aumento del costo della vita e la carenza di alloggi, la congestione dei servizi e degli spazi pubblici, la crescente precarietà del lavoro, la trasformazione delle identità dei luoghi. Ciò che le comunità residenti nelle città più visitate d’Europa un tempo consideravano una gradita fonte di ricchezza e occupazione, nonché un punto di orgoglio, è oggi considerato una minaccia.

L’obiettivo di SMARTDEST è quello di contribuire alla definizione di un’agenda politica per le città che consideri la mobilità del turismo e che faccia emergere il potenziale dell’innovazione sociale derivante dal coinvolgimento dei cittadini al fine di far nascere comunità più resilienti.

Può leggere l’articolo integrale al seguente link:

Which concepts are linked to the smart city theme? Results based on a bibliometric analysis

by Silvia Blasi and Andrea Ganzaroli, SMARTDEST team – Milan University

This study applies bibliometric analysis for conducting a systematic literature review that enable to map the intellectual structure of the smart city.

We performed a search on the Scopus database, which is one of the most important instruments for collecting systematic information on global scientific literature, especially for mapping an emergent field of research, since it does not include only ISI journals. We preferred to use Scopus instead of WOS (Web of Science) or Google Scholar, because the former includes a more restricted number of journals, with a smaller coverage of the social sciences field, and the latter includes also non-peered review articles and redundant information, making difficult to ensure data quality. Data are analyzed through bibliometrix, an R-tool used to do comprehensive science mapping analysis, which was written by Aria and Cuccurullo (2017). The bibliometrix R-package ( provides a set of tools for quantitative research in bibliometrics and scientometrics.

We identified the articles focused on topics related to the smart cities by performing an advanced search on all the subject categories included in the Scopus database. Following Zheng, Yuan, Zhu, Zhang, & Shao, (2020), we performed a search using as keywords [(“smart* cit*”) OR (“smartcit*”) OR (smart sustainable cit*) OR (“smart communit*”) OR (“intelligent cit*”)] in the title and keywords in Scopus and we considered only English document. Following this procedure, we obtained 1966 documents.

In the picture we can see the co-occurrence networks. Co-occurrence networks are the collective interconnection of terms based on their paired presence within a specified unit of text. Networks are generated by connecting pairs of terms using a set of criteria defining co-occurrence. Looking at figure we can see that the terms are distributed among several clusters. The green, turquoise and orange clusters has formed around the Internet of Things (IoT) and its practical applications in the context of a smart city. This finding confirms our hypothesis that the IoT is to some extent, a “core” term or technological core for a smart city. The term “smart city” itself is more within political and media discourse. From a technological perspective, the IoT is a global infrastructure for the information society that provides the ability for more complex services by connecting (physical and virtual) things to each other based on the existing and developing ICTs. Big data (green cluster) are also a key technology for a smart city. Red cluster contains concepts such as “innovation”, “urbanization”, “infrastructure”, “policy making”. While the green, turquoise and orange clusters tend to spotlight the technological sides of a smart city, the red ones is focused on its organizational and policy issues. The meaning of smartness in the urban or metropolitan context not only indicates utilizing cutting-edge of information and communication technologies (ICTs), but also importantly management and policy concerns. The blue cluster has at its centre the word “smart city” that is linked with “sustainable development”.

For more information you can see the entire report at the following link:

Sustainable aviation pathways after Covid19

By Alejandro González, URV phd researcher

Aeromobilities during Covid-19 have been highly disrupted due to the unprecedented global lockdown and the subsequent border restrictions, affecting the entire value chain of travel and tourism, with dramatic impacts on local economies that are most dependent on the visitor economy.  Yet, the desirability that air travel returns to the pre-pandemic trends has been critically questioned by one of the major authors in the field of sustainability transitions and mobilities, Stefan Gössling of the Western Norway Research Institute. In his newly published paper, Risks, resilience, and pathways to sustainable aviation: A COVID-19 perspective (Journal of Air Transport Management, 89), he questions if the volume growth model championed by the aviation industry and its travel and tourism allies ought to be replaced with a slimmed air transport system, less vulnerable to global shocks and more accountable for its environmental impacts. This alternative would disrupt the “back to business as usual” ambitions of the tourism industry, as air transport moves the 58% of international tourism arrivals but would represent a decisive breakthrough towards a low-carbon transition of tourism mobilities.

Billions of US$ have been allocated to recovery plans for airlines and airports (T&E, Greenpeace & Carbon Market Watch, 2020), with hopes to expediently return to business-as-usual (ICAO, 2020). At the end of May 2020, the total volume of State aid may have exceeded US$100 billion, i.e. almost half of what global airlines reported as their net result over nine years, i.e. for the entire period 2010–2018 (US$196.9 billion; IEA, 2019).

Figure 1: EUROCONTROL Draft Traffic Scenarios – 14 September 2020 (base year 2019/2020). Retrieved from

However, Gössling highlights that this crisis is a reminder of long-standing, interrelated and unresolved problems characterizing the global air transport system. Air travel is a major contributor to climate change (an estimate of 5% global warming, IEA 2019), and a vector of pathogen distribution, within very short timeframes (Browne, St-Onge Ahmad, Beck & Nguyen-Van-Tam, 2016). Besides, the sector’s small and often negative profit margins (Doganis, 2005; Gössling and Higham, 2020; IATA, 2019a,b) are highly dependent of State aids (Doganis, 2005; Gössling et al., 2017). Recent research also hints at adversely distributive features of air travel: only a small proportion of the world population participates in international aviation. So, cheap flight could hardly be considered a means of social empowerment, while carbon inequality has big implications to climate justice.

Therefore, how should the return of aviation be? IATA (2020) expects that the recovery after COVID-19 will take some time, but a return to business-as-usual is nevertheless expected. Conversely, an alternative scenario towards a desirable and resilient aviation system, the baseline is that air transport capacity is diminished, risks and vulnerabilities are taken into account, and the cost is integrated into pricing plans and weighed against short-term benefits.

Venice Tourism May Never Be the Same. It Could Be Better.

Can the pandemic be an opportunity to rethink tourism? This article published in “The New York Times” discusses the Venetian case. In particular, it reflects on how the crisis can be an opportunity to make future travel to and in cities more sustainable and to develop an economy that does not rotate entirely around tourism.

Go to the article: link