Becoming a Smart Destination

It is key to involve everyone in the process - share with everyone and spread smart tourism impact to neighbourhoods.

The Smart Capital of Tourism initiative was launched by the European Commission three years ago to provide a catalyst for cities throughout Europe.

What does it mean to be a SMART destination?


The Smart Capital of Tourism initiative was launched by the European Commission three years ago to provide a catalyst for cities throughout Europe to strengthen along four key pillars:

  1. Digitalisation
  2. Culture
  3. Accessibility
  4. Sustainability


Starting out with Julie Benisty from Bordeaux Tourism by talking about the need for a collective approach, to involve everybody in the process of shaping tourism.

Looking Beyond Economic Indicators


In Bordeaux, they have 45 environmental indicators as well as 17 SDG indicators. As a city, they recognise the importance of measuring environmental impact and not only economic indicators and growth. Social indicators are also important to understand how we live in our own cities.


The ambition of Bordeaux is to spread cultural activities beyond the city, or the cities around the city, with walking trails bringing together 17 Cities and 160km to also encourage discovery beyond the central hotspots of the city to benefit all.


Julie believes that focusing on societal benefits has to be the core aim of succeeding in being a smart capital.

Change Starts with Governance


Joan-Carles believes that for Valencia the first priority is to change the governance model of the destination, to bring together those traditional indicators but also consider the importance of new priorities by looking at trends and developments to give more of a horizon view.


A willingness to change the governance model can allow the brand to then tell a different story, about health about the attractiveness of the city as a place to invest, to live in and to offer opportunities for well-being and quality of life.


For Valencia, this means firstly not forgetting the importance of Planning. It's important to open up the conversation with stakeholders, partners and everyone involved. This includes companies and cities in both formal and informal working approaches, where everyone's voice can be heard and form part of the process. What's key here is to not only talk but to write down and make concrete plans, to hold the city to account and to set goals and targets which can be worked towards.


Joan-Carles also says that we cannot afford to hide away from the reality that as an industry we pollute and we must be honest about this. This is why they have begun to implement measurement of this, underpinned by blockchain technology to offer transparency and verification. This is where the digitalisation priorities play an important role in helping to also transition that.


A Small Destination with Big Impact


Morten's role is Head of Climate and as a governmental organisation, they have put all their efforts into climate. The governance model that they started with in turn led them to become recognised for their achievements, where on top of EDEN, they've also progressed from 20 to 15 on the GDS Index.


So what does it all come down to? Embedded sustainability.


Every time they take decisions, they are always looking at the possibilities and implications of climate change and sustainability. To make this more tangible, Morten explains that as a destination tourism is about local opportunities, not trying to compete by building new products. They believe firmly in building on what they have - for example they offer 'climate sustainability safaris' involving local people.


They launched a climate festival which has gone from 60 people to now more than 21,000 people. It's an example of how being small doesn't mean that you can't have a big impact.


Sharing is Smart


Seville's visitor economy model invites a debate about the model. For Seville, it is key to involve everyone in the process - share with everyone and spread smart tourism impact to neighbourhoods.


Making visitors responsible and contributors to climate neutrality in 2030 and making it inclusive, diverse and equitable are the keys to Seville's commitment. It's time for sharing, not competing, that was how Miguel García concluded his keynote.


Share, Preserve and Innovate

San Sebastian Tourism encourages visitors to live & experience the soul of the city, like true locals. Ainhoa Cordoba and Arantzazu Viteri highlighted that San Sebastian Tourism prefers quality over quantity to preserve its identity. Reinventing traditions is also a priority for the destination.

Their work has been following 3 smart principles:

  • Sustainability (low emission zones, code of ethics, zero plastic & waste).
  • Accessibility (100% accessible buses, detailed information about attractions).
  • Digitalisation (observatory big data, regulate accommodation).

Theme Park? No

Gijón is the biggest city in Asturias and is a mature destination. For the DMO, involving stakeholders is critical - they should help make decisions.

Daniel Martínez was straightforward when talking about the quality vs quality ratio - Gijón prefers to have fewer tourists and ensure that there's no harm to the environment and to the local community - this is how they look at the smart digitalisation plans.

What is the biggest challenge?

Smart destinations face many issues when it comes to the impact that is felt by stakeholders, the community and the environment. In Joan-Carles' opinion, representing the European goals effectively is one of them.

Morten believes the most difficult part is to know how to work with success - after winning an award or being recognised - to stick with the initial plan. Daniel Martínez highlighted communication as their most difficult challenge, whilst others focused on the importance of ethics and honesty.

Key Takeaways

  • Social indicators are important to understand how we live in our own cities.

  • It is key to involve everyone in the process - share with everyone and spread smart tourism impact to neighbourhoods.

  • Don't lose track of the plan even after getting relevant recognition.
Published on:
December 2022
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