Smart Destinations and Sustainability
Smart destinations arise thanks to the expansion of the smart city concept as urban development focused on sustainability at different levels as energy infrastructure, transport, etc.; supported in ICT and the Internet to improve the quality of life and also facilitate friendly interactions between people, organizations and the city itself; being a leading trend in large cities such as Barcelona, London, Nice, New York y Singapore.
It can be observed that ICTs are present in most of the factors underlying the evolution of destinations: the increase in demand, the improvement of sustainability, the efficiency and optimization of resources, the competitiveness; as well as the new consumption habits, among others. In the Operating Manual for the Configuration of Smart Destinations developed by the Instituto Valenciano de Tecnologías Turísticas (INVAT.TUR) we can find a section with the characteristics and uses of the main technologies that can be applied in smart destinations.
A smart city while taking advantage of the technology with the above objectives, should ensure sustainability through a responsible management and efficient use of resources and encourage the economic development of the area.
These destinations, therefore, are a concept that, besides relying on technological structures, rely on other paradigms that preceded it; without which, it wouldn't be possible for a destination to be considered as such, by limiting it. For example, the sustainable urban development, the universal accessibility in the destination for all citizens and governance of the territory –with the consensus of the different actors that inhabit it– promoting interaction and integration of both visitors and locals with the environment and increasing the quality of experience and quality of life respectively.
On one hand, the government must be transparent and ensure public access to information while establishing partnerships with private entities to promote the cause. Furthermore, tourism enterprises must rely on ICT's and not only to meet the needs of users and streamline operations, but also to develop a sustainable approach and optimize the use of resources and manage its supply chain and business model, thus improving its corporate social responsibility.
A more concrete example is that of Barcelona that can be praised for its development in the field of technologies and energy efficiency. The city has won awards such as the European Capital Innovation in 2014 and the Biosphere World Class Destination certification in 2011, awarded by the Institute of Responsible Tourism in addition to the Global Smart City 2015 Award; remaining above other candidates like London and New York.
This is due, as available on the website of Smart City developed by the City Council of Barcelona, to the implementation of projects that improve the accessibility and quality of life of residents and the environment through applications such as tele-assistance service, promoting electric public transport vehicles, a smart bus network and smartquesinas, smart traffic lights, availability of parking space sensors, school routes, contactless technology, smart irrigation systems, free wifi points, waste management ... All these improvements have resulted in a savings of approximately 86 million euros per year in water consumption and electricity.
Simultaneously, it is an opportunity for local microentrepreneurs arising from changes in society promulgating a more collaborative and responsible demand with the sustainability pillars –which would result in a positive socioeconomic change– and, in some cases, living an authentic experience; being the prime example of success in the case of the housing sector, the company Airbnb, although this type of consumer trend is latent in all kinds of services and products in different sectors such as the F&B, this by apps such as EatWith.
However, although Barcelona has awards in several areas of smartness, the density of tourism in the city center is immense, and this causes lots of generalized discomfort in residents negatively affecting the quality of life, and also quality of the experience in the tourists' eyes.
For these reasons, one of the objectives of smart destinations should be the enhancement of local social sustainability through the application of new technologies. As a practical example in the Basque Tourism Observatory, pioneers in the use of ICT, manage a mobility monitor that allows them to analyse the flow of tourists in the destination trying to understand the spatiotemporal activity of the visitors; identifying possible patterns of movement, as well as the most frequented or crowded areas or places and the impacts that may result.
Currently, geospatial information becomes part of the development plans as smart cities of certain advanced cities in the world and can be used with technologies such as GPS to find the most saturated areas in real time and try to disperse the crowds of tourists in certain spots of these places.
Referring back to the initial approach where one of the key goals of smart destinations is to be energetically sustainable as well as efficient in the use of resources; we can see different practices being developed towards sustainability. In the environmental dimension, the possible future that holds for smart destinations is to be zero emission cities that are fully sustainable, like the development of zero-emission buildings, as the example of the Beddington Zero Energy Development in London.
In this aspect, you can cover the subject of smart transport we mentioned above, we could see how they are beginning to use innovative technologies in order to promote this concept of "zero emissions".
As an example, some cities are also considering the use of technological solutions such as the establishment of inductive charging rails by incorporating wiring on the city roads, so that it can transform the kinetic energy of cars into usable energy as in the case of the Electro Kinetic Road Ramps, in order that the user does not depend on the limited autonomy of car batteries. If this applies to public transport by road, cities could get to minimise emissions while consumption of resources.
Working with futuristic perspective, the fact of developing this type of technology could be focused on self-sufficiency of cities, trying to make feasible the generation and storage of energy no longer just for public use as lighting, if not as tradeable green energy not for profit but for the satisfaction of users.All these developments already exist, but for all these possibilities and future developments will be implemented in destinations, it would be very important to have adequate policies that would facilitate and promote their implementation.
Originally wrote in Spanish for Smart Travel News.