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What will destinations of the future look like? In a recent book chapter publication by FH-Prof. Dr. Barbara Neuhofer and Lukas Grundner, MA, destinations of the future are explained at the intersection of experiences, places, technological development, tourists and not to forget, the local communities. Curious to learn more? Read on!

Future destinations – What to expect?

When we talk about the future, we can’t forecast every detail of it. However, some aspects including the changing ecosystems of our planet, growing technological advancements, digitalisation and new attitudes towards mobility influence shape our idea of what the future could look like. In the case of tourism destinations, questions are raised on how we will shape sustainable travel to destinations while taking into account both tourists and local communities. The human-centredness plays an important role and following the experience economy, products, services, and experiences can be turned into valuable economic offers for individuals. Destinations could become the changemakers for the positive development of technology and sustainability in our daily lives. The leading question here is: ‘How design processes and the application of artificial intelligence can be applied to design digital, intelligent and sustainable experiences in destinations of the future?

Smart Destination Development

Although smart tourism destinations are gaining in popularity in research, the topic of ‘smart tourism destinations’ is still evolving and being further researched. Throughout this chapter ‘smartness’ is referred to as technologies shaping the basis of the digital ecosystem with a focus on people. After all, all technological infrastructures, such as cloud computing, smartphones, sensors, WiFi – you name it – can’t be used to their full potential without data they collect from tourists or people in general.

Based on that, we could say that ‘smartness’ from a tourism destination perspective is a dynamic collaboration between networks and (human) agents which aim to improve experiences and enhance value (co-)creation. In the evolving experience economy,  human-centredness is one of the core values to stick to when designing experiences, and in this case, destinations.

As mentioned before – understanding the relationship between humans and technology is important to design – not only for the physical but also for the digital and intelligent smart destination experiences. But how can we distinguish technology in the shape of Artificial Intelligence and how could we connect this to human interaction?

Human x Artificial Intelligence Interaction

In the area of artificial intelligence (AI), there are three levels to be distinguished. Currently, we are in the first category also known as ‘narrow AI’ which is a relatively weak form of AI. This category includes solving or conducting specifically programmed tasks. The other two categories include situations in which AR and human intelligence are on the same level and AR surpasses human intelligence – also known as ‘Super Intelligence’. Especially the last category is a rather controversial topic at the moment.

In an earlier research paper written by the same authors, the bright and dark sides of AI were explored which led to the model of ‘Realms of AI Tourist Experience’ which can also be applied to tourism destination design (see article: How could artificial intelligence (AI) impact tourist destination experiences in the year 2025?)

For the purposes of destination management, the application of AI is becoming more interesting in creating human-centred experiences. Additionally, another megatrend to take into account is ‘sustainability’ and how destinations could develop sustainably for all actors involved.

Transformation and Sustainability

Destination design combines experience design and destination management in that experiences are holistically created. Designing personas or customer journeys are only but a few examples of how destination design could look like behind the scenes. The purpose is clear: namely to create added value for tourists, locals and tourism providers in the destination and to encourage sustainable development. That means that not only visitors and tourists are targeted but that the quality of life and wellbeing of the destination’s local communities and experiencing a destination should be equally shaped.


To summarise, while looking into the future, destinations could develop in different directions. Combinations of design processes and a number of smart technologies, such as AI, could make intelligent and sustainable solutions a reality. This could bring together digital and human aspects in countless areas. Also, technologies could support interaction points along the customer journey and lead to sustainable value creation for all and promote tourism experiences and experiences.

New products and services can be created, existing ones can be improved, and problems can be solved. This is not only positive for destination development but also for humans. Products, services or experiences that are tailored to people have the power to create valuable moments that may even lead to personal transformation. As we are currently moving towards an era in which personal growth and transformation is at the centre stage, this is exactly what destinations should start designing for.

Which destination is next on your bucket list? See you around!

Cite as:

Neuhofer, B. and Grundner, L. (2023) Destination Design der Zukunft: Digitale, intelligente und nachhaltige Erlebnisse. In: Pechlaner, H., Erschbamer, G., Olbrich, N. (eds) Destination Design. Entrepreneurial Management und Standortentwicklung.

Read the full article here:

Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. Link

Photo Credit:

KAL VISUALS on Unsplash


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