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How do tourists understand intelligent systems and wish to interact with them? How are they supposed to interact and co-create value with other stakeholders?
How does  their level of trust in technologies shape and facilitate their experiences?

These and many more questions are answered in our latest study ‘Towards a conceptualisation of smart tourists and their role within the smart destination scenario’ published in the The Service Industries Journal.

Smart tourism’ and ‘smart destinations’ have been gaining attention as new frame-works. They help us understand the impact the latest information and communication technologies (ICTs) have on the relationship between businesses, destinations and tourists. However, one centerpiece of the smart tourism ecosystem that has been rather neglected in research so far is: the tourists themselves. This new type of tourist is described through their attitudes and behaviours, and their role within the smart destination scenario.

“To understand smart tourism,
we need to understand who the ‘smart tourist’ is.”

How and why did the tourist behavior transform?

Now we talk about a tourist who is informed, empowered and wishes to receive more personalised and better-designed experiences. ICTs have made it possible – service providers can co-create together with customers, who get tailored and richer experiences. But not only tourists are changing, also destinations. ICTs have given rise to multiple opportunities for destinations to improve their performance and processes. For example, intelligent systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) or cloud computing are all examples of systems and applications that are currently shaping and reshaping tourism. They are forcing us to rethink traditional frameworks and consider unprecedented situations for destinations and tourists alike.

Tourism, destinations, tourists and experiences can no longer be considered in the same way as before. Destination management organisations (DMOs) play a critical role in managing these shifts and ensuring a strong performance and collaboration among all the stakeholders to move towards becoming a ‘smart destination‘.

Smart destinations (SDs) are a response to these changes, capturing  the opportunity to provide improved and more personalised experiences through better interconnection between stakeholders in the smart service system.

How do we go from eTourism to Smart Tourism?

Smart tourism may be understood as an evolution, a step forward of eTourism.
While eTourism refers to the usage of ICTs in the processes carried out by tourism organisations, smart tourism combines the physical world to the digital sphere through a range of technological systems and solutions. Smart tourism is an ‘ecosystem’, formed by a smart business network, smart destinations and a smart technologies infrastructure. This ecosystem causes benefits for the whole system and for each individual.

One question always remains the same: How can destinations facilitate tourists with experiences that better address their individual preferences and create value?

Intelligent systems can provide better tourist experiences due to a better management of information and a higher support in decision making. They offer flexibility and adaptability to the context and have the capacity to learn from experience and provide feedback.

How does an eDestination become a Smart Destination?

Smart destinations have been inspired by some prior conceptualisations, such as ‘eDestinations’. While eDestinations emphasised the utilisation of ICTs to provide information, in smart destinations, ICTs are embedded in all elements thanks to new developments, like the Internet of Things. Technology here becomes the space, where all the interconnections between stakeholders happen. Therefore, improving tourist experiences through the use of the latest ICTs and smart services is the main objective of SDs.

How can experiences be enhanced in a smart destination?

Central technological platforms that interconnect all the stakeholders, integrate the data input from different sources, and allow for dynamic, real-time information sharing is just one of the multiple answers and solutions. What is needed are systems that maximise efficiency, improve decision making and enhance tourist experiences, while co-creating value for all involved stakeholders connected to the tourism ecosystem.

How does a digital tourist become a ‘smart tourist’?

Tourist behaviour has undergone a great transformation because of tourists’ use of ICTs during travel.

Tourists have become more demanding, active, independent, informed and skilled, and have discovered new ways of searching for information, comparing, booking, interacting, sharing, complaining, reviewing and recommending.

Conceptualising the smart tourist

Our model shows the development from eTourism to Smart Tourism, from eDestination to Smart Destination and from the Digital Tourist to the Smart Tourist.

The paper further reveals concrete

  • attitudes and behaviours of the smart tourists
  • characteristics of the smart tourist and their role within the smart destination

Central to this discussion are the question of:

  • tourists’ privacy and security concerns regarding data sharing
  • acceptance and particular use of smart ICTs
  • interaction and co-creation through ICTs


Smart transformation of tourism and emergence of the smart Tourist (Francisco Femenia-Serra, Barbara Neuhofer & Josep A. Ivars-Baidal (2018)

So who is the smart tourist? Is it one that shares data, uses the range of ICTs available and is ready to interact and co-create?

Our paper conceptualises that smart tourists are active users of smart technologies. They not only to enhance their own experience, but perform dynamic, real-time interaction and co-creation with other stakeholders in the SD service ecosystem. Smart tourists need to trust stakeholder(s) in each situation, feeling they still have control over the experience by employing smart technologies according to their needs and preferences, but involving voluntarily other agents because they will get added value by doing so.

Our paper proposes to define the smart tourist as:

“The tourist who, by being open to sharing his or her data and making use of smart technologies, interacts dynamically with other stakeholders, co-creating in this way an enhanced and personalised smart experience. This tourist is open to innovations, social and pro-active and finds his or her natural environment in the smart tourism ecosystem and the smart destination.”

(Femenia-Serra, Neuhofer, Ivars-Baidal, 2018)

To read the full article, see the conceptual model of the smart tourist and cite this article:

Francisco Femenia-Serra, Barbara Neuhofer & Josep A. Ivars-Baidal (2018): Towards a conceptualisation of smart tourists and their role within the smart destination scenario, The Service Industries Journal, DOI: 10.1080/02642069.2018.1508458

Link to the article:


Research Gate



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