As tourists get smarter, so should their destinations

Jamie Woolley

Senior Manager - Media Solutions Marketing, Amadeus IT Group

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Technology and innovation have fuelled the evolution of today’s travellers. Now, they are highly informed, independent, connected and expect fully personalised experiences. They also want authentic experiences and actively seek out destinations that can offer something new.

view of the beach from above

This was the topic of focus at the 1st UNWTO World Conference on Smart Destinations, which gathered over 500 attendees from across the globe, including tourism ministers, destination marketers, academics, start-ups and technology providers in the Spanish city of Murcia.

Destination marketers need to be fully open to embracing new technologies if they want to reach today’s traveller.  Sandro Cuzzolin, Head of Strategic Projects at travel audience, an Amadeus company, participated in a panel discussion that focused on this new digital traveller. Traveller acquisition, mobile, and business intelligence were identified as the core pillars for success. Beyond being a means to inspire the traveller, mobile’s potential as a mechanism to deliver relevant and timely content to visitors at their destination, was a key discussion point.

Leandro Bonfranceschi, Head of New Business for Amadeus Latin America, participated in another panel on the role of business intelligence and the progress achieved by ‘Smart Destinations’ in building a deeper understanding. Each day the travel industry deals with increasing amounts of data and complexity. This has only heightened the fragility of destinations that work from outdated or incomplete data and of those that cannot translate raw data into compelling calls to action.

However, these great challenges are outweighed by greater rewards. Being open to new technologies and taking a proactive approach to data analytics can harness a wider range of updated data that can allow destinations to adjust to changing traveller demands.

Who is travelling to your destination?  When and for how long? How are competing destinations interacting with your target traveller?  Tourist destinations can boost market relevance and continue to grow if they understand destination demand and build on actionable insights.

Juan Jesús García, Head of Industry Affairs, Europe, moderated a panel that discussed the role of smart destinations and travel service providers in bringing travellers door to door multimodal travel services, and analyzed the opportunities stemming from deploying these services.

The need for technology to interact with the customer was clear. But another priority that resonated throughout the event was the need for sustainable tourism development. Protecting the natural, social and cultural environment are essential to the growth of any destination. At the same time, ensuring that they are, in fact, accessible for everyone is fundamental. There is some progress being made already - heritage sites, for instance, showcased how they are diving into the digital world using virtual reality technology so attractions can be visited virtually.

Ultimately, the main focus of tourist destination organisations remains unchanged: to promote their destinations effectively. With a traveller in constant evolution, technology’s role as a lever to drive a personalized and sustainable offer becomes key, and it was encouraging to see such a high level of engagement and discussion across the board.