From Digital to Smart Tourism: Main Challenges and Opportunities

From Digital to Smart Tourism: Main Challenges and Opportunities

Silvia Fernandes
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6463-9.ch003
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In the information age, activities and business models have become different. Factors such as new technologies and social media influence consumer behavior due to the variety of choices/channels. Companies are making a difference in consumers' minds by connecting with them active and creatively. Also, customers contribute with ideas and experiences, not only for products and services, but also for platforms and brands. Cyber-physical apps together with mobile media tend to revolutionize business models across multiple industries. This is important for tourism due to a contribution to link some still weakly linked activities across tourism sub-sectors in Portugal. The present work reflects on how Portugal is in terms of internet of things adoption (IoT) and digital transformation facing the challenges of sustainable and smart cities. It also explores which impacts this transformation can have through its platforms and processes in tourism and future services.
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1. Introduction

Modern technologies introduce what has been called the ‘smart’ factory or smart platform, in which cyber-physical systems monitor the physical processes of the platform and make decentralized decisions. These systems include IoT (Internet of Things) and communications, either between machines or machine-human interactions, in real time via wireless web. This set allows a considerable number of platforms or infra-structures, involving new processes. As this entails a significant speed of technological change, these issues should be increasingly addressed by enterprises and services. And an issue to introduce and develop is geolocation and related location-based services (Palos-Sanchez et al., 2018). Destinations have the possibility to present offers to customers based on location using geolocation technology, creating new opportunities for destination marketing organizations.

Tourism and travel brands tend to become “experience platforms” in order to develop travel experiences that enable travelers to grasp and participate in the activities, culture and heritage of the local communities they are visiting. This will also be an opportunity to build sustainable learning from these experiences to the tourism sector. These trends mean a considerable amount of data involved, so big data can be useful to track visitor uses and flows, identify crowded areas, evaluate industry performance/volatility, and refine tourism strategies (Peeters et al., 2018). Moreover, the usability of information can also include data-driven decision making as well as monitoring and measuring success. These data need to meet criteria such as accuracy, relevance, reliability, timeliness, accessibility, and coherence. Also, in discussing the appliance of those technologies in tourism business, the socio-demographic issues have to be considered such as age, income, country of residence, etc. as the impact of quality/price varies accordingly (Pinto & Castro, 2019).

A major challenge, but at the same time opportunity, is the level of integration that IoT can create in order to link some still weakly linked activities across tourism sub-sectors such as: accommodation; food and beverage; transports (road, air, water, etc.); equipment rental; travel agencies; other reservation services; cultural activities; sports and recreational services; retail trade of country-characteristic goods; and other country-specific tourism activities. But despite the strong influence of technology in future tourism, and the existence of some initiatives such as the Virtual Tourism Observatory, there is still a lack of data to help destinations understand future tourism patterns, motivations and expectations (Jafari, 2019). OECD suggests that a monitoring system is needed to anticipate changes in both environment and supply/ demand trends in world tourism, provide public and private sector stakeholders with better visibility, and give tourism professionals a decision-making tool to improve the management of their activities (OECD, 2018).

Two research questions (Q1&Q2) can emerge from these considerations, which are:

  • Q1: How is Portugal in terms of Internet of Things adoption (IoT) and digital transformation?; and

  • Q2: Which impacts can this ‘fourth’ industry have, through its platforms and processes, in tourism and related services?

In order to discuss it, the next section explores the propensity of Portugal to digital transformations toward IoT and its potentials for tourism offers and services.

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