8 Solutions That Are Turning Cities Into Smart Destinations
The pandemic disrupted all industries and sectors, especially tourism. Now that we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, one question remains… What does the future hold for travel?
It’s hard to tell. All I know is that technology has a central role in its recovery.
Amid travel restrictions, innovative companies were reinventing the way people travel. The result was years of advancement in travel technologies.
It’s like they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
But the pandemic is not responsible only for technological advancements. The habits of travelers have also changed since last year.
People are no longer tolerating long lines, crowded sights, generic experiences, unsustainable practices, poor customer service and lack of information.
It’s important that travel companies and authorities understand the post-pandemic traveler and their habits in order to adapt their offers and services. The result is the shift of ordinary destinations into smart destinations.
Why becoming a smart destination?
First things first, do you know what is a smart destination?
Well… in short it refers to a city or location that uses innovative solutions to better manage tourism. The ultimate goal of a smart destination is to improve the overall experience of travelers through the sustainable development of their local tourism ecosystem.
Destinations around the world started investing in travel technologies in response to the intense digitalization process on tourism.
In 2019, the European Union launched the initiative European Capitals of Smart Tourism. Their goal is to stimulate innovative and smart tourism practices in Europe. So far nine cities were awarded the prize for their smart approach to tourism.
Many locations claim to be smart, yet 32% of DMOs don’t have a guide app. We are talking about a tool in a world where 90% of people do all their holiday research online.
Although many destinations recognize the importance of smart tourism, there is still a long way for it to become a standard around the world.
Reasons why cities should invest in smart tourism:
- It increases the destination competitiveness.
- It improves the travel accessbility.
- Smart destinations manage better their resources.
- It helps the development of local tourism ecosystem.
- It helps destinations to plan better actions to stimulate tourism.
- It improves the quality of the experiences for visitors and the quality of life for locals.
Innovative solutions used by smart destinations
Elevating a city status to Smart Destination is a process that demands investment and coordinated work between the private and public sectors.
This process involves not one but a set of solutions. Among all the disruptive technologies a city can use in order to become a smart destination, we listed eight for this article:
1. Travel Marketplace
Digitalizing the entire tourism offer is perhaps the first step in becoming a smart destination.
A travel marketplace is a platform that gathers all the points of interest, tours, attractions, activities and experiences a destination has. The idea is to connect visitors directly with providers.
It should offer a smooth user experience and allow direct bookings to services and attractions.
This not only makes the booking journey easier but also gives visibility to less known locations, helping in distributing tourists and revenue within a destination.
Building this innovative solution from scratch is costly and time-demanding for a DMO alone. Not for nothing Orioly offers this service for destinations around the world.
2. Self-guided Itineraries
These are usually mobile apps built to guide travelers through a location or attraction. They work as a regular tour, but they offer a high-personalized experience.
Tourists who opt for a self-guided tour can choose from different languages and departure times, also customize the itinerary according to their interests.
All this flexibility attracts travelers looking for a customized experience at an affordable price.
Destinations with their own city app can partner with tour operators to create self-guided itineraries. This is a great way to help local businesses in generating extra revenue.
3. Augmented Reality
Augmented reality sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie but it has been around for some time now.
Basically, this technology changes a person’s perception of the physical surroundings when viewed through a particular device, such as a smartphone. The magic happens by adding a layer of information to reality.
If this description confused you even more, just think about Pokemon Go. It uses AR to place little monsters around the player that just can be seen on the mobile screen.
This technology offers a huge potential for smart destinations. They can use it to enhance travelers’ experience while visiting a location.
It fits perfectly with self-guided tours. You can turn a city walk into an exciting game experience by adding virtual elements such as historic figures and objects. Questo is a tech company that develops this kind of solution.
Tourism boards can also use it to place useful information around the destination. Imagine just pointing your smartphone to a restaurant or hotel to see its reviews, or, to a historic landmark to read interesting information about it.
A chatbot is nothing more than an automated messaging software that uses AI to converse with people. In other words, it interacts with the user without the need for human supervision.
Cities with their own portal or app can implement this solution in order to improve customer service and access to information by tourists.
You can program a chatbot to answer frequently asked questions regarding the destination, sights and attractions. Also, it can help travelers panning their trip and even booking rooms, flights and experiences. The possibilities are many!
5. Big Data
We are a big source of data. Just look at the 500 terabytes of information that people share per day only on Facebook!
All this volume of data generated daily on the Internet is the basis of big data. But not only big techs like Facebook and Google can use it in their favor. Nowadays this technology is accessible to small travel companies and destinations.
Data can be collected when someone books a hotel room, a tour, watch a video, or simply visits a website.
By combining internal and external data sets, decision-makers can predict travel demand and behaviors in order to act more efficiently.
DMOs can use big data to attract the right people at the right time and in the right way. For example, launching a promotion for a specific market when it shows signs of interest in the location.
Also, authorities can use big data to understand how tourists behave once they arrive at a destination in order to improve services and offer a better experience.
6. Virtual Reality
This technology is also used to enhance travelers’ experience before and after arriving at the destination.
Unlike AR, users need to wear a special device called VR headset to be immersed in a completely digital environment. This unveils a new world of possibilities for DMOs. Basically, VR brings the “try before you buy” concept to the travel industry.
This aspect of VR turns it into a great marketing tool for DMOs. They can use interactive videos and 360° images of popular landmarks to give a taste of the destination to travelers.
This type of promotion reduces the uncertainty of buying an experience and shortens the travelers’ buying journey.
Smart destinations can go beyond marketing and use VR to create a seamless booking experience for travelers. While virtually exploring the destination a tourist can make a reservation of a hotel room or restaurant for example.
7. Internet of Things
This emerging technology has gained a lot of attention since the announcement of the 5G network.
Internet of things, or just IoT, refers to devices that are connected to the internet and are capable send and receive data in order to perform actions automatically.
Destinations with a fast internet connection are great candidates to implement the IoT for tourism. From smart energy meters to autonomous cars, they can bring travelers’ experience to another level.
Just to illustrate the potential of this technology let’s imagine a tourist walking in the historic center of a certain destination. As they approach a famous attraction a notification is sent to their smartphone with its working hours and the number of people inside it.
This not only optimizes travelers’ time but also distributes better tourists around a destination.
8. Antificial Intelligence
This is probably the most complex solution on this list. Artificial intelligence refers to computers and programs that are able to learn patterns, make decisions, recognize and interpret sets of data without human interference.
One of its main characteristics is the fast response to complex problems and the low rate of errors compared to humans.
In the past years, AI has become more advanced and reliable, making it a great option for improving administrative and customer service tasks.
Due to its capability of learning patterns, travel services can use this technology to study tourists’ behavior and offer a strong personalized experience even before being requested it.
Another use of AI in tourism is in assisting crowd management. Authorities can use it to redistribute tourists in a certain location before a place gets too crowded.
We gave you the tools, now is your turn to implement them and who knows turn your city into the next capital of smart tourism.
Once you have your solution in place the next step is promoting your destination as a smart destination. To help you with that, check out our Guide to Tourism Destination Marketing Strategy for DMOs.