Is smart tourism something tourist destinations only talk about, or also really implement?
By Dejan Križaj, Miha Bratec, Peter Kopić and Tadej Rogelja, University of Primorska
The focus of the research is on the adoption and implementation of technological innovations to analyse the Smart Tourism projects implemented in Europe according to the stringent technological criteria of contemporary Smart Tourism definitions.
Smart Tourism followed in the footsteps of the earlier concept of sustainable tourism and quickly established itself as the reference adjective when discussing tourism in politics, economics, and academia. In the latter, the debate has been lively, and although there are many different conceptualizations, academics seem to agree that Smart Tourism is based on the use of novel technologies that improve the quality of visitor and local experiences, while enabling destinations to take steps towards achieving their sustainability goals. However, as it happened in the past with the term “sustainable”, the adjective “smart” seems to be heavily misused when describing the various transformations that tourist destinations and cities are currently facing. Mostly, it dominates the marketing discourse, with many destinations trying to use this “smart” concept because it gives them a competitive advantage over other tourist destinations based on uniqueness and differentiation.
Based on our study, the reality of developing smart solutions within these destinations is mostly still in its infancy. More specifically, we, in detail, analyse:
- What is the real content of the Smart Tourism projects currently implemented within Europe and supported by substantial EU (European Union) funding?
- What are the characteristics of the Smart Projects and what kind of technology solutions are used in them?
- Can we really see the rapid technological progress in tourism services that the marketers of Smart Destinations promise?
- What do the currently implemented projects tell us about the future of Smart Tourism and Smart Destinations?
Summary of key findings:
Our work differed from most methods used in other studies that rely on the construction of conceptual models, frameworks, or indicator systems based on the evaluation of Smart City or
Smart Tourism goals, statements, strategies, and initiatives. The presented study goes a step further and tries to understand which technological innovations exactly were adopted and how they contribute to projects’ smartness. In order to better distinguish between conventional and advanced, interconnected technology, we have placed a special focus on Smart Actionable attributes of the projects analyzed. From what we could perceive in the selected projects, four smart technology trends can be identified: 1) Connectivity and Big Data, 2) Connectivity and Intelligent Algorithms, 3) Big Data and 4) “smart” projects with mainly well-represented technology that does not exploit the Smart Actionable possibilities.
In our initial online resource search, we encountered the vast majority of projects that were touted as “smart” but did not address any of the newer aspects of ICT infrastructure, such as interconnectivity and interoperability of integrated technologies. They were therefore excluded from our study, leaving only 35 projects, which we analysed in detail and assigned to the four groups mentioned above. This confirms our preliminary findings that there is a lot of hype and little substance (e.g., smart washing) regarding Smart Tourism projects. This problem stems in part from the fact that there are different, everchanging definitions and meanings of the term Smart Tourism. Subsequently, different stakeholders and entities adopt different meanings and set different priorities based on their viewpoints and schools of thought.
See full paper: https://doi.org/10.3390/su131810279