Smart destinations incorporate sustainable mobility, seamless travel services and accessibility for visitors with reduced mobility, ensuring easy access for all
Smart mobility solutions enable destinations to better respond to changing travel behaviours and needs of the more informed, hyper-connected and multi-channelled tourist by offering more relevant, integrated services (e.g. from door to door) and incorporating fast adaptation processes.
UNWTO has initiated the Smart Destinations concept with annual conferences since 2017 (Mucia, February 2017; Oviedo, June 2018). The World Tourism Day theme in 2018 was 'Tourism and the Digital Transformation', including Smart Destinations and Smart Travel.
A smart destination continuously measures, integrates and analyses information collected for decision-making, prioritisation of measures and anticipation of challenges. It is especially characterised by a continuous drive and support for innovation and technological developments that bolster resilient and sustainable development. This characterisation comes from the effective use of new tools to regularly collect and analyse data, as well as the timely, wide and interactive distribution of its results. By comprehensively collecting and analysing data, smart destinations strengthen their economic growth and jobs.
Smart destinations are key to the transformation of the tourism sector. By continuously and accurately measuring, integrating and analysing data for efficient decision-making, prioritisation and anticipation of challenges, they create a seamless and exciting experience for tourists while managing local resources efficiently.
Smart solutions of mobility and accessibility for visitors towards smart tourist destinations: e-mobility, demand responsive transit/flexible transport services for tourism mobility, intermodality and seamless travel services. For these, a strong planning framework and policy change are required.
Evidence of success
Smart destinations can make tourism governance more inclusive through inclusive entities, such as boards, trusts or foundations, which represent all public/private stakeholders in the destination. They can help ensure maximum accessibility in sites, products and services, eliminating barriers to mobility. And they allow us to analyse sustainable tourism management through different lenses.
Smart Destinations facilitate the take-up of low-carbon tourism mobility solutions with clear benefits.
Need for transport technologies, making air, land and sea transport faster, cheaper, more connected, more environmentally friendly and more engaging for travellers.
Also, challenge of seasonality, where population change from variation in tourist flows makes tourism’s impact difficult to measure.
Potential for learning or transfer
Solutions can be smart only if they improve sustainability. While advances in data management have been made predominantly in the economic area of sustainability in the past, the new digital transformation of tourism offers opportunities to strengthen a more universal approach towards sustainability, supporting stakeholders at all levels to benefit from decision making mechanisms based on tangible evidence in all three pillars of sustainability, allowing destinations to govern their tourism activity more effectively.
The above solutions are rapidly becoming established for their transfer to European destinations. Most related policies in mobility, environment, energy and climate action offer effective synergies for smart destinations. The related investments usually have a positive benefit/cost ratio when all benefits are take into account.
The new 'European Capital of Smart Tourism' awards including accessibility, sustainability and digitisation criteria offer further potential.