Smart Tourism and Local Heritage: Phygital Experiences and the Development of Geotourism Routes

Smart Tourism and Local Heritage: Phygital Experiences and the Development of Geotourism Routes

Claudete Oliveira Moreira (Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra, Portugal), Rui Ferreira (Centre of Studies in Geography and Spatial Planning, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra, Portugal) and Tiago Santos (Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Coimbra, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6701-2.ch012
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Abstract

Contemporary society is sustained by a growing digitalization of social processes, with exponential growth in the uses of ICT, which opened up new interaction possibilities with objects and places. In the field of tourism, these technological developments have given rise to the emergence of new concepts: smart tourism, smart destinations, smart experiences, and smart heritage. These concepts and their implications for the success of tourist activities are discussed first, and then the focus of analysis is shifted to the local tourism resources and characteristics. The case study focuses on the municipality of São Pedro do Sul, an area located in the Viseu Dão Lafões subregion, within the Central Region of Portugal. Several low-cost digital strategies are proposed to enrich tourism activities based on endogenous cultural and natural resources and empower route tourism as a relevant strategy for diversifying tourism and support the sustainable development of local communities based on a digital application that aims to integrate storytelling in the territorial context under study.
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Introduction

The rapid development of information and communication technology in recent decades has opened up new possibilities for humans to interact with objects and places. In the field of tourism, these technological developments have given rise to the emergence of several new concepts: smart tourism, smart destinations, smart experiences, and smart heritage. Information technology increasingly mediates interactions between visitors or tourists and the places they choose to visit. Mobile information services can enrich the tourism experience with a digital memory of the region and its heritage, enabling the delivery of innovative services and making touristic offerings more creative, accessible, and intuitive.

In most tourist destinations, the ubiquity of information, interconnectivity, and the ability to customize services to user preferences are revolutionizing the way people explore territories and heritage sites. In recent years, several examples of tourism services have been identified that are supported by multi-sensory interactive platforms enabling varying degrees of immersive experience, while delivering increasingly personalized relations with physical places and cultures.

After discussing the concepts of smart tourism, smart destinations, smart experiences, and their implications for the success of tourism activities, the focus of attention is changed to deal with resources and current characteristics of tourism at the local level. The case study focuses on the municipality of São Pedro do Sul, an area located in the Viseu Dão Lafões subregion, within the Central Region of Portugal. This is a municipality characterized by very contrasted landscapes, with vast mountain rural areas very sparsely populated and riverside sectors where the main population clusters are concentrated. The tourism activity is key to the local economy of São Pedro do Sul, especially considering that other alternatives are currently less viable. For example, the largest local enterprise is Termalistur – Termas de São Pedro do Sul, E.M., S.A., the management company for the city’s thermal spas and all related activity.

Methodologically, the option fell on the description of the most relevant characteristics of the territory of São Pedro do Sul, as well as on the graphic representation of some data to characterize the tourist demand in this municipality. The present reality reflects a high spatial concentration of tourism activity, so the main objective of this work is to highlight the importance of digital technology in reconfiguring cultural and natural tourism experiences, particularly in relation to the promotion of touristic routes, which are of paramount importance in attracting visitors and tourists to those less accessible, rural areas. Based on the local cultural and natural resources, several low-cost digital strategies are proposed to enrich this type of tourism and, simultaneously, empower route tourism as a relevant means to diversify tourism and support the sustainable development of local communities. Starting by analyzing the communication tools currently available, it is particularly important to highlight the importance of social networks as platforms for information exchange and up-to-date contracts between tourist agents operating in the territory of São Pedro do Sul and the various customer segments potentially interested in the offer available. These types of platforms may also be an important source of information to feed the proposed digital application prototype, which aims to integrate stories and digital storytelling in the territorial context under study – the phygital experience.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Geotourism Routes: Track, path, way, or otherwise linear itinerary which is evident on the ground and stands out for their natural characteristics or for allowing access to an important cultural or historical heritage. Travelers are expected to travel the geotourism route to visit places of natural, cultural, historical or religious importance.

User-Generated Content (UGC): Any form of multimedia content generated and posted online by unpaid users or contributors, widespread with the democratization of digital media supported by the Web 2.0. These contents, associated with an increasing mobility in internet access, can be of any type (text, audio, video, image), and are broadcast through a series of digital platforms (website pages, image viewers/organizers, social media platforms and other kinds of online interaction).

Phygital Experience: A novel way of interacting with the world, seen as an overlapping of real and virtual spaces, which complement and reinforce each other. Thus, the tourist experience is based on the overlapping of digital information (bits and bytes) with real objects and landscapes (rich in colors, textures, sounds, smells, and flavors). Digital elements are used to trigger or heighten an immersive real-world experience, but the process can also work the other way around: a physical action can promote a search or prompt an alert, usually through interaction with sensors or machine-readable milestones conveying relevant information to users through digital interfaces.

Prosumer: In general terms, the prosumer is a fusion between the notions of producer and a consumer. In the field of tourism, it is someone who actively engages in the process of accessing, consuming, and reviewing touristic services and experiences. Acting as an influencer in the chain of value, the web is used as a medium to reach other potential tourists, transferring professional and personal knowledge and contributing to the thrive of brands and products.

Smart Tourism Destination: Innovative implementation of advanced digital technologies to the tourism system allowing competitive advantages for the destination. Namely, enhancing the interpretation of heritage, landscapes and others tourist attractions, management optimization of consumption services and support to the decision process (pre, during and post experience), taking advantage of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and the Internet of Things, connecting the tourism components in a dynamic neural system.

Wellness Activities: Multidimensional practices and choices oriented towards a holistic and inspirational active search for a better quality of life, improving individual well-being, including physical (body), mental (mindfulness), spiritual (values and beliefs), seeking a harmonization between the emotional, social, environmental and metaphysical spheres.

Tourism System: A complex socio-economic system, composed of three subsystems (administration, management and services supply; distribution and promotion; demand/consumption) and several components, whose interaction is based on information and communication, open, extremely sensitive to variations in the environment that serves as a context, which is in a dynamic balance, with adaptive adjustments of the system continuously.

Story Mapping: Method for arranging stories and information in a digital environment to create a spatiotemporal perspective on how they fit into the overall user experience. In the context of tourism activity, Story Mapping enables the combining of dynamic, interactive, web maps with a temporal narrative expressed by multimedia information. Story Maps provides an excellent input to the roadmapping process.

QR Code (Quick Response Code): Is a two-dimensional barcode used to provide easy access to information through a smartphone or other type of device with an imaging receiver.

Tourism Experience: A complex psychological process involving a multissensorial performance. It depends on the personal interests, motivations, perceptions, portrayals, degree of participation and sharing made by the visitors in their tourism trips. The value, meaning and degree of satisfaction depends not only on the social, demographic, economic, and cultural profile of the tourist but also on the quality, authenticity and sustainability of the destination.

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