HCM CITY — The arrival of the internet of things (IoT) and inter-connectivity of devices has already substantially changed tourism and led to the development of smart tourism, experts have said.
For cities, investment in smart tourism may be just one particular desired outcome in the wider smart city discussion, but it is worth noting that it is central to the wider agenda, Prof Perry Hobson, pro deputy-chancellor for global engagement at Taylor’s University in Malaysia, said.
He was speaking at the 8th Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities (TPO) Forum that opened on June 21 in HCM City.
The growth in the use of IT and websites has allowed many businesses to deal directly with consumers and has seen the development of new B2B platforms and led to the development of new B2C businesses, he said.
Companies such as Trip Advisor, Expedia, Airbnb, Hotels.com, Uber, and Skyscanner have all arrived as a result of this digitization, Hobson said.
Several destinations are already looking at developing into much smarter tourism destinations with the integration of ICT into physical infrastructure, he said.
“Given that tourism is about a series of individual experiences that tourists have in a destination, the creation of smart tourism will allow these experiences to be better connected, inter-connected and shared.”
There would be no more looking at guide books and maps and then wondering what to do if it rains, he said.
Individual tours can be created by combining preferred forms of transport, sites and attractions using past recommendations from friends or trusted sources/bloggers, he said.
Weather, transport and distances can be taken into account, and ever-present e-guides with translating services which would transform the mass tourism experience into an individually customised experience, Hobson said.
As tourism experiences progress to become smart, there would be enormous opportunities for the development of new businesses that can profit from this shift, he said.
Just as businesses like Uber and Airbnb were disruptors in the digital e-commerce space, innovative thinking would also see new smart businesses evolve, he said.
The next phase of innovations would largely be driven by the increasing prevalence of IoT, and the ability to reach interconnectivity and predictability, and it is this phase that would have potentially profound implications for the tourism, hospitality and events industries, he said.
Yoonjae Nam, director of the Centre for Global Entertainment Contents at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, said technologies for a smart tourism destination can be varied depending on purpose, including IoT, wearable computing, cloud computing, virtual reality, augmented reality, beacon, GPS, artificial intelligence, and big data.
Thanks to GPS and the reality functions of smartphones, visitors are provided with real-time information on dining options, weather, currency rates, accommodation, and nearby points of interest, he said.
Travel guide apps that run on smartphones operate in several different languages and offer a variety of services such as audio guides, interactive street maps and transportation information including real-time bus schedules and bus fares.
One of the most intriguing aspects of smart tourism is the role played by State and local governments in promoting smart tourism, Yoonjae Nam said.
For instance, the Korean Tourism Organisation has both domestic and international smart tourism departments, which oversee the development and operation of multiple platforms, including multilingual websites and smartphone applications, he added.
Huynh Luong Huy Thong, an officer at the Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Group’s R&D center, said a smart tourism eco-system can be defined as a tourism system that takes advantage of smart technology for creating, managing and delivering intelligent tourism services and experiences.
His company has collaborated with more than 10 cities and provinces to develop smart tourism eco-systems in the country, he said.
It also provides several ways to interact with tourists, including SmartAds (for transferring advertisement content to the display), SmartBooth (tourism information station), and LBA (SMS location-based advertising), Thong said.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, deputy director of the city Department of Tourism, said the use of IT is one of the breakthrough solutions to promote the city’s tourism industry.
The city has several smart tourism programs like developing network systems for infrastructure, tourism databases, tourism gateways, smart travel apps, and social networks, she said.
Yunil Kim, director of the Busan city Department of Culture and Tourism, said: “Amid the 4th Industrial Revolution, we are facing a rapid transformation of the global tourism industry.
“Against this backdrop, it is necessary that we establish an advanced smart tourism environment using state-of-the-art ICT technology, and promote the tourism industry as a whole by providing a number of smart tourism services.”
More than 130 representatives of 27 cities in six countries shared ideas and experiences on smart tourism at the forum.
The two-day event, with the theme “Smart Tourism”, featured presentations by city leaders, policymakers and tourism sector officials from TPO member cities.
The Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities has 86 member cities and more than 45 industry members.
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