Smart technologies that have started a new era in all sectors from agriculture to education, entertainment to textile have also, of course, taken the tourism sector to a new dimension. So, what innovations have these technologies that make our business easier by taking more part in our lives than ever before in the crisis moments during the Covid-19 pandemic, brought to the tourism sector? What exactly is smart tourism? What awaits us in this new era of tourism? Let’s examine them in 5 steps.
1- What Is Smart Tourism?
We can define smart tourism as the name of the new era in which Industry 4.0 – 4. industrial revolution, started with the introduction of smart technologies into the industrial field – carried the tourism sector. Primarily it is worth noting that smart cities with advanced technologies and physical infrastructures, such as artificial intelligence, big data, IoT, cloud and 5G, play an important role in the emergence of this new form of tourism. While these cities focus on improving the quality of life of residents by providing a sustainable and integrated platform, smart tourism is rather considered as an area supported by the state but led by tourism and the private sector and aimed at enriching tourist experiences.
2- The New Age of Tourism
Unlike the previous phase, e-tourism, smart tourism benefits from new technologies along with internet-based technologies. In this way, continuous data traffic also includes the physical space, so an integrated platform is created that people and objects constantly co-create together. Besides, while pre-travel researches and post-travel processes were previously at the forefront, now in addition to these more focus is on during the travel phase. So while instant data flow shapes consumers’ road maps, personalized recommendations become a guide for tourists during the trip. Moreover, in this new phase, we can say that concepts such as sustainability, co-production, product personalization are gaining importance.
3- Smart Tourism Ecosystem
In the light of academic studies conducted in this field, schemes of ecosystem differ, but we can examine the main elements as follows: digital technologies, consumer, business, destination.
Digital technologies are one of the main components of this ecosystem. In general, they are grouped as; cloud computing, IoT and end-user internet service systems.
The cloud, which makes it possible to access data from any device that can connect to the internet by making it independent of a certain hardware, is at an important point in this new era of tourism. Instant data from users and sensors in physical space stored in the cloud, and becoming instantly accessible to users; therefore, simultaneous data and the information -reached through applications as a result of the analysis by artificial intelligence technology- flow creates an uninterrupted and wide communication network.
The internet of things is also another important element here. With this technology, in a smart city with physical infrastructure, data flow between objects via sensors is provided without the need for human intervention, so it becomes possible for all these objects are in constant communication. In this way, for instance, users can examine information coming from the sensor to the phone app when approaching a historical sculpture; a business can use the data to improve service quality and strategy.
When we say end-user internet service systems, we mean all other remaining technologies. Examples include augmented and virtual reality, destination applications, sensors, beacon, QR code and social networks, etc.
Here, when we talk about new tourism, we are also talking about a new consumer, a new tourist; a smart tourist. Unlike an ordinary tourist, a conscious tourist profile appears here. They are defined as co-producers of the destination creating their own experiences by having full knowledge of new technologies, being aware of sustainability and responsibility for the places they visit and taking part in an interactive environment. Also, we can put residents who meet this definition in this category.
Another component, businesses (tourism and other sectors) can provide personalized recommendations to users, benefiting from data that are obtained with the various application systems. In this way, companies strengthen business competition and increase efficiency. As an example, Red Roof hotel chain has achieved a 60 percent increase in the number of bookings by analyzing flight data in America and reaching customers who may have potential flight cancellations and delays, through mobile ads.
Smart tourism destinations are locations equipped with new information technologies and use them to improve tourist experiences. Respecting nature, combating climate change, providing new tourist experiences are among the main features of smart tourism destinations.
4- Advantages And Disadvantages
In fact, all the advantages provided by smart city also apply to smart tourism. Improvements in the sustainability of natural resources such as waste minimization, reducing water and energy consumption, and the protection of green fields are among the top of these. In the city constantly and instantly sharing data with its users and places, the quality of life of residents increases, and tourists experience an improved accommodation, transportation and travel experience during the trip. As for businesses, as we have seen in the above example, it is necessary to emphasize that smart tourism practices significantly increase business competition.
In addition to many benefits, just like in fintech and social media applications, data security is one of the biggest question marks in smart tourism. It is expected that there will be new developments in this regard with future researches and regulations.
5- Smart Tourism Destinations In Turkey And Around The World
Looking at smart tourism practices in Turkey, the ‘Step to City’ project, which was first applying in Kayseri in 2015, stands out. The “Step to City Traveller” smart city app, available for free to domestic and foreign tourists, can use through both Android and IOS systems. While you can access information about historical places and artifacts equipped with beacon technology in 8 different languages, you can also see the most interesting different places of the city with this application. The application is used in 7 countries, 16 cities, 769 locations including big cities in Turkey such as İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir and Antalya.
When we look around the world, we see that Asia and Europe come to the fore in this area. In China, Smart Tourism has been stimulated by applications launched with state support since 2011; As for Europe, it has been organizing the European Capital of Smart Tourism Competition since 2019 to support the EU’s smart tourism transformation. While Helsinki and Lyon were selected in the first year, in 2020 Gothenburg and Malaga were among the winners of the competition. In addition, smart tourism practices and studies continue to be carried out in different parts of the world.
Surveys show up that businesses and users consider developments in this area very useful and necessary. We can cite this as an example, at Roman Baths smart tourism trial in 2018, 80 percent of visitors stated that they would be more likely to visit museums if such experiences were offered. The presence of smart technologies in almost every aspect of our lives; the fact of a large visitor profile that uses them more actively; and the new demands such as hygiene, safety, uncrowded arising in the pandemic process… All seem to play a role as a driving force in the transition to the smart tourism era while leading the tourism sector to innovations.