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07 July 2020

Interview with the Chairman of SEGITTUR

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4 min.
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Becoming a Smart Tourist Destination can make you more competitive

Enrique Martínez Marín is SEGITTUR chairman. He stresses that transformation into a Smart Tourist Destination helps improve competitiveness, promotes sustainable development, and improves the tourist experience and the quality of life for residents.

What is a smart tourist destination, and what advantages does it offer for the visitor and for the town itself?

A Smart Tourist Destination is an innovative tourist destination. It has a robust technological infrastructure, which ensures sustainable tourism development, accessible to all. This transformation enables the visitor to interact and integrate with the environment. It provides a better quality experience at the destination and improves quality of life for residents.

Becoming a Smart Tourist Destination has many advantages, such as the added value for the destination, improved competitiveness, promotion of sustainable development, while enhancing the tourist’s experience and residents’ quality of life.

Which Spanish cities are most advanced in this respect?

At SEGITTUR, we’ve worked with close to 40 destinations on their transformation into smart tourism destinations. We prepare a diagnostic report, analysing over 400 requirements linked to the five axes of the DTI (Smart Tourism Destination) model (innovation, technology, governance, accessibility and sustainability). Many of them are on the right track already, so it’s difficult to highlight some of the others. We have great destinations like Benidorm, Santander or Palma de Mallorca that are somewhat further ahead than the others.

How important is investment in R&D&I for tourism businesses?

The tourism sector is constantly changing, so it needs to invest in R&D&I to improve its product, its management, business model and promotion strategy.

Although innovation is a concept that’s often misunderstood, as it’s related to brilliant ideas and creativity, its really about bringing new ideas or changes to something that already exists, adding value to it. For all these reasons, it’s essential to invest thinking about how to identify and satisfy needs in a profitable way and then make investment decisions. Innovation is a process, not something you can just buy and install.

What other good practices should Spain apply to keep its role as a world leader in international tourism?

The critical factor at the moment is health safety, and all of us involved in tourism have to work to ensure safety for our tourists so that they can trust the destination, and encourage them to visit us. Other aspects will help us, such as smart tourism, which will help us better understand what our visitors are looking for, so that we can better satisfy their needs.

The COVID-19 situation has led to greater use of teleworking and technology by the general population. Will it also mean a sea-change in technology use in the tourism sector?

Technology is like marketing communication, the end of a process. The first thing is to know what problem you have to solve, what the legal, ethical, economic or cultural limitations are. Once you have defined the context, you have to evaluate the costs that the model represents for people, companies in different categories, and institutions. After investigation guided by these questions, you can consider the different technology alternatives.

Technology underpins our decisions and, often, is what makes them possible. At this time they are central for better managing and providing safety for tourists. But, to get back to the beginning, without the guides for museums, beaches and safe natural spaces by the ICTE (Institute for Spanish Tourism Quality), technology won’t be much use. Technology is a tool to serve a strategy; it’s the strategy that gives meaning and conveys a sense of safety.

In short, it’s clear that the situation created by COVID-19 is going to boost digital transformation in the tourism sector. We’re going to need to measure the occupancy of open spaces, such as beaches, monitor tourists’ temperature with thermographic cameras, digitise museum collections, manage space reservations at beaches and swimming pools. In short, it’ll be technology that enables the industry to manage and organise flows and spaces.