The European Union has made public the ten candidates to become in 2019 the two first European Capitals of Smart Tourism, which will be selected on November 7th, on the occasion of the European Tourism Day. Amongst them, there are three Spanish cities: Málaga, Palma and Valencia. As a matter of fact, Spain is the country that collects the highest number of candidacies. It is followed by France with two cities (Lyon and Nantes). The other competitors are Brussels (Belgium), Helsinki (Finland), Ljublijana (Slovenia), Poznan (Polland) and Tallin (Estonia).

What does the European capital status of Smart Tourism entail? With such recognition, the European Union expects to support the milestones and levels of excellence reached by these cities as regards sustainability, accessibility, digitalisation and cultural heritage and creativity. The two cities selected will benefit from the promotional support of the European Union.

And what is characteristic of Valencia, Málaga and Palma as smart tourism destinations, according to the EU group of experts?

  • According to the judges, the city positions itself as one of the best places to visit in the Mediterranean. The jury has emphasised the efforts, both from the local authorities and from the society, to promote a truly welcoming, smart, enjoyable and friendly city. Besides, they state in their report that Valencia draws four million visitors every year, which spend around three thousand million Euros that are invested in projects and initiatives with a view to develop a smart city, enhancing the quality of life of its residents as well as their tourists. The candidacy has founded on pillars such as sustainability, accessibility, digitalisation and the city cultural heritage.

 

  • The judges lay emphasis on the fact that Palma, despite the first impressions, aims higher than just sun and sand. It is rather a modern, accessible and sustainable city, with an outstanding cultural, artistic and culinary history and heritage that the tourist offer reflects. A tourist offer over more than a hundred years of experience, receiving around eleven million visitors per year arriving from the whole of the continent, well connected with most part of European cities. Besides, the commitment to citizen-oriented technology and the variety of initiatives designed to seasonally adjust the tourist offer are brought into focus.

 

  • Málaga. The EU experts highlight the transformation of the metropolitan area in the last 15 years. Traditionally popular due to its sun, sand and sea offer, it has become a destination that has placed art and culture at the core of its tourist offer. The jury appreciates the improvement of its cultural attractions such as the Museo Picasso Málaga or the Centre Pompidou, as well as the promotion of smart tourism. To that end, Málaga has backed tourism intelligence, taking advantage of the opportunities that the most innovative technologies provide to the tourism sector.

Três cidades espanholas desejam ser a capital europeia do turismo inteligente

A smart tourism destination is an innovative destination, accessible for all, with a consistent technological infrastructure, which guarantees the sustainable development of the region, enhances the visitor’s environmental interaction and integration and increases the quality of the destination experience, as well as it improves its residents’ quality of life.

The purpose of a smart tourism destination is to guarantee a balance between economic growth and environmental preservation, as well as that of the sociocultural living conditions. A proper resource management and the measures at the energy, environmental, cultural and economic levels are key aspects to reach such balance. Technology is fundamental not as its own purpose, but rather to reach the goals set in matters of competitiveness, sustainability and improvement in quality of life.

A certain technology must be at the service of people. Sometimes, by means of more sophisticated systems such as artificial intelligence or big data, and others by simpler solutions such as mobile applications, free Wi-Fi or the installation of automatic doors in public spaces, museums… since besides guaranteeing accessibility, automatic doors are highly helpful with a view to implement energy efficiency measures, for instance. Besides, access control sensors with which automatic doors are equipped can monitor and offer very useful information to the tourism sector or public administrations.

On the grounds that technology is a key aspect in order to be a smart tourism destination, accessibility and sustainability also play an essential role. As regards accessibility, the removal of architectural or mobility barriers must be supported, for instance with ramps, automatic doors, signs with big and clear fonts… as well as the ease of access for everyone to cultural, nature or leisure proposals.

And with regard to sustainability, a balance must be found between economic growth and environmental conservation and sociocultural living conditions, promoting a fairer and more diverse tourism activity, as well as with a more respectful attitude towards the region and its inhabitants. All of that will enhance the visitor experience while at the same time, residents will perceive an improvement in their quality of life.

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