SEGITTUR - Developing Smart Destinations and Data Intelligence

SEGITTUR is a state-owned company specifically developed with the purpose of fostering the development of innovation and new technologies.

At the end of 2019 we visited the headquarters of SEGITTUR in Madrid, where we interviewed Edurne Vidal - Project Manager and Luis Javier Nadea - Director Research, Development and Innovation to discover how the state-owned company is fostering technological development and innovation in the tourism sector through the Smart Destinations Programme and the activity of the Research, Development and Innovation department.

At the end of 2019 we visited the headquarters of SEGITTUR in Madrid, where we interviewed Edurne Vidal - Project Manager and Luis Javier Nadea - Director Research, Development and Innovation to discover how the state-owned company is fostering technological development and innovation in the tourism sector through the Smart Destinations Programme and the activity of the Research, Development and Innovation department.

Directly dependent on the Spanish Ministry of Tourism, SEGITTUR is a state-owned company specifically developed with the purpose of fostering the development of innovation and new technologies within the tourism sector, both in the public and private sector.

The main role of SEGITTUR consists in supporting the marketing and promotion activities of tourism destinations through the development of research and innovation, providing tools to facilitate access to new technologies.

The focus of SEGITTUR can be divided into 5 main areas of action:

  1. Digital Promotion - Promoting Spain as a tourist destination through the management of online marketing strategies through the design, management and maintenance of the official tourism portal www.spain.info and related online communication channels.
  2. Internationalisation - Disseminating the international tourism market with the best practices, knowledge and technological innovations that have made Spain a world benchmark in tourism. A great focus is put on the internationalisation of our tourism SMEs, supporting them in the opening of new markets and facilitation in international cooperation with a special interest in Latin America.
  3. Digital Transformation - Research and development of solutions in response to the new needs deriving from the role of new technologies in tourism, with a focus on how the digitisation of users has transformed existing business models, both from the point of view of supply and demand.
  4. SDGs and Sustainability - Contribution to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nations in Spain, to achieve more sustainable development of the tourism industry.
  5. Smart Tourist Destinations - Improving the competitiveness of tourism destinations through the promotion of the digital transformation of destinations. The initiative takes concrete shape in the 'Smart Destination Programme', focused on the main pillars of governance, innovation, technology, sustainability and accessibility.

The Smart Destinations Programme represents the most important project undertaken by SEGITTUR, both in terms of scope and range of action, whether the Research, Development and Innovation department is the most relevant unit for the development of destination intelligence and data at the destination level.

Introducing the Smart Destinations Programme

Emerged from the 'Plan Nacional e Integral de Turismo', Spain's national tourism plan for 2012-2015, the Smart Destinations Programme was developed to help destinations adapt and respond to the challenges and transformations deriving from the new economic, social and technological environment.

In particular, the project promotes the development of 'Smart Destinations' through the effective use of digital technologies and innovations within destinations, at the same time focusing on their sustainable development and the improvement of both the visitor experience and the quality of life of local residents.

SEGITTUR has defined a Smart Destination as:

"An innovative tourist destination, consolidated on a cutting-edge technological infrastructure, which guarantees the sustainable development of the tourist territory. A destination accessible to all, which facilitates the interaction and integration of the visitor with the environment and increases the quality of the experience for both visitors and residents." - destinosinteligentes.es

As it is evident from the definition, technology and innovation play a key role within Smart Destinations but are not the only aspects that matter: both are in fact tools used to guarantee sustainable development, improved accessibility and efficient governance for the destination.

In particular, in its model SEGITTUR considers five main pillars for Smart Destinations:

  1. Governance
  2. Innovation
  3. Technology
  4. Sustainability
  5. Accessibility

The state-owned company has developed its entire methodology around these five pillars, as explained later.

To implement the programme, SEGITTUR assists destinations across different stages of their transformation by running three main initiatives:

  • Creation of a Methodology for the diagnosis and planning of Smart Destinations.
  • Development of Common Platforms for destinations, allowing them to benefit from an intelligence system, enabling them to conduct self-diagnosis and follow-ups of on their transformation.
  • Creation of a Smart Destinations’ Network including mentoring and training programs for destinations, aimed to share knowledge and foster synergies across destinations.

The Methodology

The methodology created by SEGITTUR has been developed as a tool to help tourism planners within destinations measure the degree of compliance of their particular destination with the Smart Destinations model. This helps them understand at which stage of the transformation process their destination is and allow them to take strategic actions based on the results.

In particular, the methodology of diagnosis and planning is based on a two-cycle implementation process, based on Diagnosis and Planning and Execution and Monitoring.

Cycle 1 - Diagnosis and Planning

In this phase, the destination measures its compliance with the Smart Destinations requirements according to a '400 Requirements Methodology' covering the 5 pillars of a smart destination: Governance, Innovation, Technology, Sustainability and Accessibility. For all the 400 requirements, a score from 1 to 5 is given indicating the degree of compliance for each requirement. An overall report containing a score for the whole methodology is created as well as for each of the five pillar and related sub-categories.

The report and score help tourism planners to obtain an overview of the destination's compliance with the requirements and the maturity status of the destination, getting to know how the destination is performing with respect to every requirement/pillar and on which specific ones they should focus their efforts.

Cycle 2 - Execution and Monitoring

After a careful analysis of the report, SEGITTUR helps the destination develop a five-year action plan in compliance with the Smart Destinations Requirements which the destination commits to following. Here, the necessary actions to achieve the Smart Tourist Destination are materialised, with the destination entering a process of continuous monitoring and improvement.

The importance of the assessment

The methodology developed by SEGITTUR is a fundamental tool helping tourism planners and policymakers know how their destination is performing with respect to the requirements of a smart destination.

The results not only allow the destination to evaluate the accuracy of their current plans but also to reschedule their priorities developing a concrete plan of actions leading to the transformation of the destination. If approached with a monitoring-oriented mindset, the methodology can become a driving force for innovation within the destination.

The methodology review should not be a one-time assessment, but a never-ending process that destinations should go through constantly to keep track of improvements and reinvent their strategy - Edurne Vidal, Project Manager

As project manager Edurne Vidal explains, since its launch in 2012 the Smart Destination Programme has been extremely popular, with exponentially increasing requests from destinations to go through the '400 Requirements Methodology'. Part of the success of the initiative was due to the contribution of international organisations such as European Capital of Smart Tourism and UNWTO, who have given significant international exposure to the methodology developed by SEGITTUR, contributing to spreading awareness about the programme.

As of 2019, a total of 73 destinations have joined the Smart Destinations’ Network, 32 of which have successfully completed the compliance assessment and are currently implementing their action plans.

Among the 32 destinations who have completed the assessment though, only two had a compliance score above 80%, namely Santander and Benidorm. After completing the assessment in 2016, in 2019 Benidorm has also been certified as the world's first Smart Tourist Destination by the Spanish Association for Standardization (UNE).

The added value of knowledge-sharing

Even with an overall lower average score though, almost every destination among the 32 who have gone through the compliance assessment has shown good scores in at least one of the five pillars, and in many of the other pillar's sub-categories, showing the high degree of expertise each destination has in specific fields.

In this sense, and as Edurne keeps explaining, the programme doesn't only help destinations to assess their level of maturity but also allow them to take advantage of the expertise and advise of other destinations within the network. In fact, thanks to the Smart Destinations Network, destinations can mutually share their strategies and specific expertise, benefiting from the knowledge-sharing of best practices.

Gathering knowledge and insights with destination intelligence and data


Within SEGITTUR, the Research, Development and Innovation department (in Spanish 'Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación', often referred to as 'I + D + i') plays a pivotal role in the development of innovative projects across the Spanish tourism sector. In particular, the department focuses its efforts on helping destinations gathering insights using data and developing destination intelligence.

As director Luis Javier Nadea points out, the department was born off a specific need: to make up for the lack of insights and data knowledge within small destinations. It is known in fact, how often small destinations experience difficulties in gathering tourism data which are relevant for them, with the results of them being (at least partially) 'blind' to what is going on within their borders.

In general, there are two fundamental challenges destinations (and in particular small destinations) are facing: identifying relevant data and accessing data.

1. Identifying relevant data

For a destination, data is not important per see but because of the knowledge it can generate. This is why it is essential for destinations to identify the relevant data which can generate valuable knowledge for the destination. Too often destinations fall into the mistake of collecting a great amount of data, of which only a part is useful: the big challenge for destinations is therefore to understand which data is relevant for their specific needs.

Often, when it comes to 'big data' we fall into the mistake of simply collecting too much of it: on the opposite, the focus should be on collecting only data which is relevant for the destination. - Luis Javier Nadea, Director Research, Development and Innovation

2. Accessing data

Accessing data and finding the right sources of information that you need is another major challenge for many destination. This is particularly difficult for small destinations, which often don't have the capabilities and structure of larger tourism organisations. The challenge is for them to get access to the data specific to their destination, which often already exists but is owned by actors and operators within the destination that might or might not be willing to share it.

The role of SEGITTUR and of the Research, Development and Innovation department is to promote projects that foster collaboration and synergies among actors within the destination, making sure the relevant data is shared and, therefore, accessible within the destination.

The complexity of knowledge-sharing within destinations

As director Luis Javier Nadea explains, working for the activation of knowledge sharing within destinations can be a complex process: it requires efficient coordination and collaboration between different actors form both the private ad public sector.

Before rolling out a project in a destination, SEGITTUR starts with a consultation and a deep analysis of the situation, involving not only destination managers but also representatives of private companies within the destination. The objective is to understand their needs and identify the relevant data based on them.

Another positive aspect of this project is that allows obtaining information from the destinations and theirs shareholders when they are not already sharing it - Luis Javier Nadea, Director Research, Development and Innovation

Every organisation or company taking part to the project and producing relevant data for the destination is then invited to share it. It is therefore crucial that all actors within the destination are not only enabled to access information but to share it, mutually contributing to the strategy of the destination. In this way a virtuous cycle is created, where a continuous flow of data is produced and shared, for the benefit of all actors within the destination.

The added value brought by SEGITTUR

Whilst working with destinations, the added value brought by SEGITTUR consists in the ability of the company to analyse and interpret data. The company has been working with data for a long time and by working closely with destinations, has developed a solid knowledge about the type of data which is relevant to their specific needs.

In particular, the main ability of SEGGITUR consists of crossing data sources with destination needs, creating a 'matrix' that helps destinations get the data which is relevant for them.

The added value that a company like SEGITTUR provides comes from analysing and understanding data. We understand data because we've been working with it a long time, we know what type of insights it can give and how it can respond to the needs of destinations - Luis Javier Nadea, Director Research, Development and Innovation

For example, this approach has been recently adopted by SEGITTUR working with the city of Buenos Aires on the implementation of a destination system, where the company conducted a series of strategic meetings with the main tourism players within the city, analysing the specific needs of the destination. As director Luis Javier Nadea shares, in this case, one of the main needs emerging was to understand how the American market was behaving and performing compared to the previous years.

To understand this SEGITTUR indicated data from Amadeus as the best source of information. This data was fundamental for the city to better structure their promotion policies: by understanding how that specific market was behaving the city could be more accurate in their marketing and advertising activities towards that particular market.

Developing Destination Intelligence

SEGITTUR works closely with destinations to ensure the development of an efficient destination intelligence system, capable to understand data and make an efficient use of it. Before putting in place such a system though, besides understanding the needs of the destination, it is fundamental to conduct an assessment on the human and financial resources that will sustain the operativeness of the system alongside SEGITTUR.

In fact, the development of a reliable destination intelligence is only possible within destinations where roles are clearly defined and intents are aligned across all actors, and where consistent financial resources are allocated to sustain the operations of the system.

Therefore, the implementation of such a sophisticated and efficient system is not always possible to realise: many destinations simply don't have the capability to sustain it. In this sense, the role of SEGITTUR also consists in advising each destination on whether it is feasible to put such as system is in place or if they should rather just focus on sourcing relevant data from external providers.

A switch in the mindset: looking into the future

As director Luis Javier Nadea explains, analysing data is not only fundamental to understand what is happening in the present, but can be crucial to predict what is going to happen in the future. In fact, it is only by understanding and analysing current data that destinations can forecast future trends and scenarios.

The ability to plan and make predictions using data becomes then a fundamental step toward the implementation of the concept of smart destination, where all actors are actively contributing in sharing data, establishing a virtuous circle that fosters development and innovation.

I think it is crucial that destinations do the same as larger companies, activating systems that generate knowledge for their own interventions - Luis Javier Nadea, Director Research, Development and Innovation

To take this step, destinations should start to think about ways to generate data internally and being less dependant on external providers. With the vast majority of data being produced by corporations and specialised agencies, data is often pretty expensive and not always relevant to the needs of the destination.

To be more independent, destinations should then switch their mindset, starting to think and act exactly like these companies: they should start to produce and interpret their own data internally. The sooner such data can be produced, the sooner destinations will be able to switch towards a smart destination system.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
October 2019
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