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Current changes in destination tourism

First things first: don’t let them drive you crazy!
It’s not easy for tourism professionals. Groundbreaking innovations and artificial intelligence are coming from all sides, and experts and consultants are making prophecies about what will even exist in a few years. Therefore, my well-intentioned advice: don’t let yourself go crazy! Below I describe my honest opinion of what I would do if I were in charge of tourism in a destination.

The most important thing is the product
I suggest that we all keep reminding ourselves of what it’s all about at the end of the day. Giving guests a great time that they will never forget and will tell others about. User experience, in other words. That sounds pretty digital, but the digital side is only half the truth. Because besides all the digital information channels and holiday companions, it’s still about the on-site experience, the food & drink, the accommodation, the journey, the excursions and tours, the culture and the weather. These analogue experiences are easier to find, easier to plan and easier to document and share if they have a digital counterpart, the digital twin. Work out your own strengths Learn to say no. Not every destination is great in every discipline. And learn to avoid clichés. clichés. These are exactly the things where the destination is strong, and what a guest will come for, if they come at all. The locals may not be able to hear the same clichés, or look enviously at the beacons where everything is supposedly always where everything is supposedly always better. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. greener. The inhabitants always see their own place too negatively: “There’s nothing going on here. going on”. But that’s not true! I think digitalisation helps to work out one’s own strengths. not always great things, but special things, and that’s what you have to focus on. concentrate on. These strengths also create the brand and thus the reason for the guest to go there. reason why you should go there.

Everything! Everything! As long as you see something when you look out of your window that is not yet in the database, you are not finished. As long as there is something in town that you can’t pay for with a credit card and book online, you’re not finished. As long as there are still closed hiking trails that are not on the online map, you are not finished. As long as you don’t know your guests digitally and what they are doing, you are not finished.

Artificial intelligence
No reason to go crazy. And no reason to wait for anything either. Design a good offer with the service providers and digitise it. Any form of user communication needs perfect data. No matter whether it’s conventional websites and apps, search engines, conversational interfaces (chatbots & co.) or the metaverse. Someone has to digitally record the museum’s opening hours correctly and keep them up to date. And everything else you need for a holiday or a day trip. The systems get the data from the web. Just like search engines have been doing for a long time. The systems will also evaluate according to their own logic what is the best, the most correct and the most up-to-date data. That means: generating data. Good data, all data, and keep it up-to-date.

 Open data plays no role
Search engines have always been indifferent to whether the data is open or not. It’s the same with artificial intelligence. In the future, many systems will no longer display data in its original form with source reference and licence, etc., but will process it into an answer depending on the application. The Open Data Hubs are not fundamentally wrong, they are just at least 10 years too late. The platforms and systems are not waiting for this, but are already building their own digital world. What is currently lacking in information is being invented to go with it. The way to avoid this is to make the missing data available as quickly as possible from the official source. At Outdooractive we call this the “Alliance of Officials”, in which we unite the official data from many stakeholders into one official data set – the digital travel guide of the destination. Pure content databases lack the travel guide superstructure to inform a guest comprehensively and the tools to accompany the guest. 

European Data Spaces
The EU is taking a promising path with the GAIA-X Data Spaces. It is working on a data ecosystem that is not intended to be a central database and does not require open data. A networked data landscape is being created in which data from many platforms and databases flow together and can be exchanged via standardised data formats and interfaces. For an application, the data as well as the services can then come from different systems. Bookable services or services with other business models can be easily assembled. Licence agreements and business agreements can then be concluded in a simple way (smart contracts), including the use of APIs. At Outdooractive, we have been building exactly such a system for 20 years now, where data from different sources flow together and are organised with standards for rights, technology and business models. That’s why we were chosen by the EU to help develop the structures for the European Tourism Dataspace. The Tourism Technology Alliance (TTA) is already a first visible manifestation of how data will flow in the future. Other partners are just joining the TTA. AI will not replace these models, as it still needs the product and the ability to book and enjoy it.

There was a time when I could no longer hear the word, as it is used in an inflationary manner and often misused for advertising purposes, and usually it has little substantive content. But strictly speaking, Outdooractive’s vision, mission, values, products and services are all geared towards sustainability. Not only am I myself deeply rooted in an alpine cultural landscape where traditionally you don’t do anything that harms the existence of your descendants, but also the entire team and the company Outdooractive cares passionately about sustainability. That’s why Outdooractive is different. The platform is built sustainably in order to give the destinations and service providers back their communication sovereignty in the long term and to digitalise the official – and thus ultimately sustainable – offer in the destinations with the alliance of officials.

In many research projects, we have been working for years to make transport in destinations more sustainable. These include the awarding of public transport friendly tours, flexible adventure buses, and environmentally friendly travel. We seamlessly integrate public transport into the platform’s applications to offer public transport in the right context for travel to and from the destination. 

To enable guests to make informed choices about sustainability, we are currently working to ensure that the more than 200 different labels are underpinned by data.  Under the umbrella of the supreme institution for sustainability certifications, the GSTC, I am leading a working group for the definition of a uniform data standard for businesses, tour operators and destinations, right now at the GSTC Conference 2023 in Antalya. The aim is to be able to display and filter uniform indicators for different actions for sustainability, such as: Energy consumption, renewable energy, water consumption, waste, emissions, local products and fair employment.