Definition of Smart Tourism Destination

Lucca, ItalyAlthough the world probably doesn’t need another definition of Smart Tourism Destination, here is my proposal:

A Smart Destination is a destination where companies, administrations and tourists constantly interact to perform three activities continuously and iteratively:

1) Collection of data about the activities that take place at the destination, collected from all possible sources of data (some of which already are available and others that will be implemented specifically for this aim).

2) Analysis of the wide variety of data collected using various intelligent algorithms to detect patterns of tourist behavior and of operations at the destination, in order to allow proposal of measures to improve both the management of the destination and tourist satisfaction.

3) Implementation of measures that pass an analysis of economic, technical and financial feasibility to improve the destination, making it more sustainable and adaptable to the needs and tastes of tourists who can even customize their experiences—as a result, tourists obtain a more satisfying stay while improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the destination.

Examples of more efficient and effective destinations (following Boyd Cohen’s definition of smart city): smart hotels, reduced energy and water consumption, waste reduction, existence of green spaces, quality of public transportation, open tourism data, high productivity levels, high educational level of residents and tourists, low crime rates, etc.

Some comments and notes about the above definition:

  • In the collection of data from different sources, different periodicities will be given. Thus, some data will be collected every second or less (a sensor of water consumption) while others will be collected once daily (opinions in social networks).
  • The participation of tourists in the process of co-creation is basic. The tourist stops being a passive agent and becomes an active and fundamental part of the tourism value chain.
  • Although the definition does not specifically cite new technologies, it is clear that IT is at the base of many of the operations to be developed.
  • Point 2 of doing data analysis using intelligent algorithms refers to what is often called big data. Of course, data analysis is nothing particularly new. The analysis of data from scattered sources with the objective set in the definition may require analysis algorithms that, until now, have not been traditionally used.
  • Substituting “destination” for “hotel” in the above definition, we largely characterize the hotel of the future, and even the city of the future.
  • Examples of data sources already available: social networks, tourist tracking from their smartphones, existing surveillance cameras on the streets, etc. An example of a new data source: sensor networks deployed specifically for this purpose.
  • The issue of privacy is relevant and important. When tracking tourists from their smartphones or when using surveillance cameras, it is obvious that it can raise some misgivings. There are two issues to consider. First, before collecting any data, it is necessary to have the appropriate consent. Second, the goal should never be the individual tourist with name and surname, but the tourist with a demographic profile whose characterization allows for data analysis and then proposals for improvement.
  • The definition implies a high degree of dynamism in the destination, a constant innovation, a permanent reinvention and the search for new business models that better meet the needs of tourists and optimize the management of the destination’s resources. Therefore, it is essential that all stakeholders, specifically entrepreneurs, are involved in the process and have access to data and results to develop novel algorithms, find hidden patterns and develop new business models. This is, that actually open innovation processes take place.
  • In the previous paragraph, the entrepreneur does not only refer to a university student who is creating a startup. A well-established company looking for new business opportunities also qualifies as an entrepreneur.
  • Throughout this process of connecting and collecting data from diffuse sources, the concepts of interconnectivity and interoperability of systems are also important and relevant, as they appear in the definition by Professor Buhalis.

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