The Necessary Digital Transformation for a Post-COVID-19 Scenario of Mérida's Roman City

The Necessary Digital Transformation for a Post-COVID-19 Scenario of Mérida's Roman City

Alba Marín
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3369-0.ch012
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This chapter addresses the importance of the Roman Archaeological Ensemble of Merida as a tourist destination and the necessary revitalisation of the tourism sector through digital innovation. Despite the different policies to reactivate the sector implemented in the post-COVID-19 scenario, the authors consider that there is still much work. They propose how digital technologies play a crucial role in the conservation and dissemination of cultural heritage, and they are committed to mobile and augmented narratives as an ideal strategy for urban archaeological tourism. Throughout the chapter, they review key notions that articulate the essential elements of the tourist experience and comment on previous projects that could serve as a starting point.
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In the postCovid-2019 scenario, the city of Mérida has just been recognised Smart Tourism Destination, which means a package of support to turn the city into a smart destination. The Group of World Heritage Cities (UNESCO) in Spain developed a project to revive cultural tourism with the Braintrust Tourism Observatory. Mérida is one of the 15 cities that make up the Group of World Heritage Cities and offers one of the most relevant Roman sites in Europe. As a Roman archaeological site, it has been considered a World Heritage City since 1993 and has the most important Roman art collection in Spain in its National Museum of Roman Art. The urban heritage complex includes the Theatre and Amphitheatre, the Amphitheatre House, the Temple of Diana, the Portico del Foto, the Arch of Trajano, the Alcazaba, the Roman Circus, the Aqueduct of Miracles, the Archaeological Complex of the Morerías, the Baths of San Lázaro and the Proserpina Reservoir, the largest reservoir built by the Romans in the whole of the Mediterranean area.

The tourism reactivation project aims to provide the cities that make up the group with strategies and tools to face the post-covid 19 future. One of these lines is the increase of digitalisation for tourist consumption. The project results suggest that the digitalisation of the tourism value chain is essential for the development of Mérida as a Smart Tourism Destination. For this reason, the city has been trying to become a smart destination for some years. At the present time, with funding packages of millions of euros and following lines and ideas for activities such as the creation of a virtual tourism office, the development of augmented reality works in heritage spaces, the technological surveillance systems, the photogrammetry in monuments, the installation of digital screens, the creation of virtual brochures and interactive maps, among other ideas.

In the following pages, the authors review the city of Mérida, the public policies of the tourism sector at a national and international level, the post-pandemic context and the creative options for the digitisation of heritage and urban tourism. To do so, the reader will get to know the city geographically and contextually, since we start from the assumption that, although the history of Mérida is of international relevance, it is not particularly well known. Following, it delves into the phenomenon of Smart Tourist Destinations and what it means for the tourism sector in Spain. Next, the text focuses on another of the elements we articulate: the digitisation of cultural heritage and the need to attract and entertain the tourist and museum visitor, passing through exciting projects that enrich our narrative. Finally, the ideas converge, once again, in the field of the Roman City of Mérida.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Narratives: Stories in movement and anchored to physical spaces through which the spectator moves, personalised in many cases and generally using geolocation or augmented reality technologies.

Virtual Epigraphic: Digital reconstruction and study of ancient engraved inscriptions or writings.

360-Degree Video: Is a video format that captures the scene at a 360º angle, the subsequent reception of which allows the image to be viewed in an immersive way.

Engagement: In this context, it refers to the commitment between spectator and work, visitor, and museum, not only measured by the interactivity between both elements but also to an affective, cognitive, and behavioural state.

Augmented Reality (AR): Is a digital system that makes it possible to visualise digitally created elements on a real physical scenario, generally through a digital device such as augmented reality glasses or camera viewers on mobile phones or tablets.

Videogrammetry: A videographic technique derived from photogrammetry for the three-dimensional reconstruction of objects by capturing them from various points of view.

Transmedia Narratives: A narrative process in which the elements of a story are dispersed across multiple distribution channels to create a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.

Virtual Reality (VR): A digital system that creates an artificial world where the user can be, navigate and manipulate objects.

Mixed Reality (MR): Generally understood as the merging of the real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualisations where physical and digital objects coexist and interact in real time, derives from the combination of AR and VR systems.

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