We were blessed to have attendend the 1st UNWTO World Conference on Smart Destinations, which gathered over 900 attendees from across the globe, including tourism ministers, destination marketers, academics, start-ups and technology providers in the city of Murcia last week.
Organized by The World Tourism Organization, the Kingdom of Spain, and the region of Murcia, the conference was about what it takes to become smarter in the tourism sector in the coming years. Discussions were held on how to best apply the methodology of a smart destination. The discussions were underlining the importance of data and technology but also innovation, sustainability and accessibility. Parallel sessions were held on these topics.
Sandro, tell us a little bit about it.
Technology and innovation have fuelled the evolution of today’s travelers. Now, they are highly informed, independent, connected and expect fully personalised experiences. They also want authentic experiences and actively seek out destinations that can offer something new. Destination marketers need to be fully open to embrace new technologies if they want to reach today’s traveler.
I participated in a panel discussion that focused on this new digital traveler. We identified traveler acquisition, mobile and business intelligence as the core pillars for success. Beyond a means to inspire the traveler, mobile’s potential as a mechanism to deliver relevant and timely content to visitors, once at the destination, was a key discussion point.
Tell us more about the other discussions you attended?
Yes, Leandro Bonfranceschi, Head of New Business LATAM & Caribe at Amadeus IT, participated in another panel on the role of business intelligence and the progress achieved by ‘Smart Destinations’ in building a deeper understanding. Each day the travel industry deals with increasing amounts of data and complexity. This has only heightened the fragility of destinations that work from outdated or incomplete data and of those that cannot translate raw data into compelling calls to action.
However, these great challenges are outweighed by greater rewards. Being open to new technologies and taking a proactive approach to data analytics can harness a wider range of updated data that can allow destinations to adjust to changing traveler demands. Who is travelling to your destination? When and for how long? How are competing destinations interacting with your target traveler? The possibility for tourist destinations to understand destination demand and build on these actionable insights to boost market relevance and to continue to grow.
Also, Juan Jesús García, Head of Industry Affairs Europe, moderated a panel that discussed the role of smart destinations and travel service providers in bringing travelers door to door multimodal travel services, and analyzed the opportunities that they could see in deploying those services.
The need for technology to interact with the customer was clear. But another priority that resonated throughout the event was the need for sustainable tourism development. Protecting the natural, social and cultural environment are essential to the growth of any destination. At the same time, ensuring that they are in fact accessible for everyone is fundamental. There is some progress being made already - heritage sites for instance showcased how they are diving into the digital world using VR technology so attractions can be visited virtually.
That sounds like a lot of good topics were covered. So what is the bottom line?
Ultimately, the main focus of tourist destination organisations remains unchanged: to promote their destinations effectively. With a traveler in constant evolution, technology’s role to drive a personalized and sustainable offer becomes key, and it was encouraging to see this level of engagement and discussion across the board.
But the destinations need to act fast to not have a disadvantage, things are changing fast and destinations need to adjust just as fast. Measuring and analyzing information has become crucial for destinations. Using data is key to improve tourism products. In the past, destinations have waited for statistic information before intervening, now there is the possibility to act at an early stage. How to use data, not just collect it, has become crucial.