Just weeks after it launched the Sustainable Tourism for Development agenda for the world, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is set to hold a first convention on innovative and sustainable tourism products.
“The Smart Destinations conference is designed to bring together government representatives, private sector entities, researchers and academics as well as tech centers across the globe to explore and push for implementation of tourism models based on innovation, technology, sustainability and accessibility,” explains UNWTO.
UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai underscored the importance of the summit yet did not fail to point out the urgent need for stakeholders to commit to and move towards business practices that are respectful of the environment and local communities,”in order to be able to fully capitalize on the potential of tourism in aspects such as job creation and socio-economic development.”
To run between 15 and 17 February this year in the Murcia region of Spain, participants of the destinations conference are expected to address, among other key topics, the digital applications that make it possible to offer increasingly customized services and to differentiate tourist destinations that provide added value while preserving the natural, social and cultural environment.
UNWTO top priorities
According to Dr Rifai, those themes, which are priorities of the work of the World Tourism Organization, define the 21st century tourism which is “commitment to ecosystems, local cultures and to economic and social development.”
Paul Midy, Jumia Travel CEO , also commented:
“The world wide web has drastically changed the way we travel, to stay competitive, entrepreneurs must develop technologically feasible and highly adaptive solutions through all the stages of travel.”
Other factors for consideration
Midy, who was part of the panelists spearheading discussion on ‘Technology and design of new touristic products’ during the just ended UNWTO-INVESTOUR forum called attention to the dire need for tour stakeholders to effectively address visitors’ accommodation needs pointing out that “accommodation is an integral part of tourism and travel business in the 21st century, therefore, maximizing accessibility and building convenience should be every stakeholder’s priority.”
Smart cities impact
Incidentally, just as a way to explore implications of the smart cities phenomenon, those with a keen eye on global business trends see the Smart Destinations marketing concept to be a response to the rapid wave of e-tourism calling for providers who are able to customize solutions to enrich a customer’s experience at all stages including before, during and after their trip.
“The rise of smart cities and the growing need to manage urban tourism while protecting both culture and heritage are also some of the factors that inherently call for adoption of modern-day tech solutions owing to the need for crucial balance between development and environmental sustainability,” explains the Jumia Travel excutive, Paul Midy.
To this end, the UNWTO will run a session specially dedicated for sharing in-depth research on tourism in the 21st century with a view to moving stakeholders to chart the way forward on sustainable business practices.
The event will conclude with the reading of a manifesto summarizing the contributions of the participants, which will form the basis of the first UNWTO report on smart destinations.
Having been named on the list of world’s top “Smart Cities”, Nairobi prides herself as the African tech capital. It will therefore be interesting to see the stakeholders views on how the the city’s digital ecosystem can actively and positively impact on travel and tourism.
BY MOSES OMUSOLO