Application of Smart Tourism to Nature-Based Destinations

Application of Smart Tourism to Nature-Based Destinations

Francisco António dos Santos da Silva (Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Turismo do Estoril, Portugal & IGOT, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal) and Tiago Arruda Ferreira Marques Lopes (Escola Superior de Hotelaria e Turismo do Estoril, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9936-4.ch001
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This chapter aims to address two main themes and their possible articulation. The first explores the management of products and destinations strictly associated with nature-based tourism. The second is associated with creative and smart tourism. The connection of these two themes represents an innovative approach considering that both smart and creative tourism are closely linked to smart cities concept and urban spaces, while there is still no widespread application to other territories. The application of creative and smart tourism principles to new realities as nature-based tourism is assumed as a new challenge that requires well supported evidence and the development of sustained approaches.
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Tourism has become one of the largest economic sectors in the world, carrying new challenges in managing its impacts on society. The management of the tourism sector is at a crucial moment of its development, being essential to answer effectively to the profound changes felt in diverse fields. Increasing competition among destinations, technological evolution, globalization, improved accessibility, strong growth and diversification of demand and changes in tourist profiles, among others, have led to new challenges and consequent review of planning towards more sustainable development models (Chazaud, 2004). This new development paradigm is based on sustained changes within the pillars of sustainability (Hall & Lew, 1998), innovation (Florida, 2002), technology (Cernat & Gourdon, 2007), competitiveness (Ritchie & Crouch, 2000), and tourism experiences (Pine & Gilmore, 1998).

The increasing competitiveness between destinations promotes the urgency of new and restructured models, leading destinations to value their quality and authenticity, and investing in both product diversification and specialization, depending on the potential of the territories and their strategic products (Silva, 2013). In this context, it is important to stimulate flexibility, segmentation and customization of supply and competitiveness within territories, products and businesses.

Among the greatest challenges of tourism development is the response to tensions between the strong growth of tourist demand and the emergency of a supply driven to satisfy the needs of individual visitors or small groups as an alternative to large-scale models (Novelli, 2005), while reinforcing the link between tourists and socio-cultural and natural heritage (Kastenholz, 2009). In this sense, the increased tourist pressure on main destinations, also creates an opportunity to low density and demand territories to affirm as escape spaces of more authentic experiences. Niche markets emerge as an opportunity for innovation and empowerment of the territorial development process, suggesting the segmentation of a sophisticated set of practices that distinguish and differentiate tourists and products (Lopes, 2018; Novelli, 2005).

This segmentation emphasises the opportunity for development of many low-density peripheral territories that during the second half of the twentieth century saw their economy and demographic dynamics strongly altered. The emergence of tourism as an opportunity for development in many of these territories has become a reality and has brought new challenges. The rural and natural territories saw an opportunity to differentiate themselves by promotion customized products, while nature tourism became more attractive to urban societies. This premise was further valued with the growth of the ecological movement, the rising demand for nature and adventure sports and the increased culture of well-being among societies.

The growing interest in nature conservation and cultural heritage in recent decades has been expanded from small analysis focuses to an increasingly global and urgent expression (Pröbstl et al., 2010). These dynamics have been developed in parallel to a transformed tourism industry, assuming continued growth and expansion and justifying an interrelation between both areas, resulting in both negative and positive impacts felt by destinations. In fact, history and established practices have justified two opposing paradigms in protected areas’ management strategies – if the environment may suffer from visitation impacts, justifying conflicts and unbearable consequences, it may also gain from a productive and symbiotic work (Newsome, Moore & Dowling, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Co-Creation: Is a process involving all stakeholders, including consumers, by encouraging them to participate actively in the design, customization and improvement of products and services.

Smart City: A model of city directed towards a more sustainable, efficient and inclusive organization, supported by technology, connectivity, green energy and transports, innovation, governance and creativity, with the aim of making cities more resilient, competitive, and better places to live and visit.

Tourist Experience: Everything that tourists consume in a destination can be considered an experience, which is dependent on both supply and individual factors. In this sense, tourism experience is a vague and comprehensive concept, but can be defined as one that aims to promote a more engaging and stimulating participation of visitors, to create rewarding and emotional experiences.

Nature Tourism: Tourism activity that has as support natural resources and motivation to enjoy natural spaces.

Destination Resilience: Assumed as the destination’s capacity to absorb disturbance and reorganize itself towards its full potential.

Governance: Good governance corresponds to the processes of regulation and involvement of the whole community in the process of management of society and territory, supported by the principles of responsibility, with respect for human rights. It supposes the establishment of relationships between politicians, authorities, other entities and citizens through transparent and participatory processes.

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