Over three days (15-17 February) more than 100 speakers from 20 countries convened in Murcia, Spain to present solutions and experiences for ‘smart destinations’. The 1st UNWTO World Conference on Smart Destinations was organized by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in cooperation with the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and the Digital Agenda of Spain and the Region of Murcia.
‘Smart destinations’ are key to sustainable development and contribute not only to advances in the tourism sector but also in societies at large. The use of technological solutions contributes effectively to evidence-based decision making, prioritization of measures and anticipation of future scenarios, which is essential for responsible management of tourism and its impacts.
Topics such as smart destination systems for regular and timely measurement, intelligent promotion of tourist sites and digital accessibility formed part of the parallel presentations given over the three days.
Improved accessibility of destinations thanks to new solutions, the opportunities and challenges deriving from geo-referenced data, big data and open data platforms, and enhanced environmental protection through smart tools were also part of the discussions. Furthermore, changing travel behaviours and increasing personalized customer experiences, new business models and the role of entrepreneurs, improved participatory processes supported by smart solutions, the relation between travellers and local communities, and the sharing of existing applications were at the core of the conference.
“‘Smart tourism’ is not a trend, but the future of tourism development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai opening the conference. “The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 is the perfect framework to conduct such an event, as it addresses major challenges and opportunities of the tourism sector in the coming years,” he added.
“Spain has not only accepted the concept of ‘smart tourism’, but it has also launched related projects and actions, such as the conversion of the island of El Hierro and other cities such as Palma into ‘smart destinations’, or the development of normative work on this topic,” said State Secretary of Spain for Tourism, Matilde Asián.
”Destinations have to assume the new global framework: a complex context in which tourists’ behaviour and new technologies are changing economic structures and related policies; we are in a new scenario of continuous evolution,” said the President of the Murcia region, Pedro Antonio Sánchez.