Driving and transforming smart tourism: the advent of digitisation

Digitalisation is achieved through ecological transition, digital transformation, territorial cohesion and the search for competitiveness in the global market.

Digitalisation is achieved through ecological transition, digital transformation, territorial cohesion and the search for competitiveness in the global market.
Reading time: 5 min

The United Nations, represented by UNWTO, has indicated that, despite persistent challenges, international tourism is showing a solid recovery, with positive prospects for 2024, highlighting the need for sustainability and adaptability in the industry.

After a solid performance in 2023, international tourism is on track to fully recover pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2024, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer.

Regional performance in 2023:

  • The Middle East led the recovery, exceeding pre-pandemic levels by 22%.
  • Europe reached 94%, supported by intra-regional demand and travel from the United States.
  • Africa recovered 96%, and the Americas 90%.
  • Asia and the Pacific reached 65%, with variations in sub-regions such as South Asia (87%) and North East Asia (55%).

Economic impact in 2023:

  • International tourism receipts: USD 1.4 trillion, representing 93% of 2019.
  • Total tourism export revenues: USD 1.6 trillion, almost 95% of 2019.
  • Contribution to world GDP: USD 3.3 trillion (3% of global GDP).

Outlook for 2024

A full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is forecast for 2024, with 2% growth relative to 2019. In addition, the UNWTO survey indicates that 67% of tourism professionals foresee better prospects for 2024.

In summary, the priorities for the sector in 2024 at a global level are investment, training, empowerment and sustainability.

Tourism in Spain

In 2023, in Spain we will reach the record of 85 million tourists, we will be very attentive as there is ‘fear’ of dying of success in some destinations as the overcrowding of recent years has been exorbitant and social rejection is beginning to be detected, although the expenditure made by these travellers has shot up by more than 17%, to 108,000 million euros.

However, overcrowding, lack of diversification and seasonality are a triple handicap in our country, and on the wish list for our tourism is to have a quality offer, a product with high added value, aimed at tourists with high purchasing power, and for growth to depend not only on the volume of tourists.

Artificial intelligence technologies will be increasingly necessary for a personalised multi-experience, and will transform the sector. Tourism builds bridges of communication and understanding, and technology is the key player in fulfilling these desires and meeting these challenges.

Digitalisation of tourism

The tourism industry in Spain is undergoing rapid digitisation to improve the traveller experience. The economic recovery, driven by Next Generation EU funds, has allowed companies to adapt and accelerate their digitalisation processes.

Economic impact and resilience of the tourism sector through technology:

Revitalises the sector by focusing on strengthening communication with tourists through digital channels and implementing sustainable policies.

Digitalisation in hotels: Improve the guest experience by meeting their digital demands. From digital check-in reservations to digital keys, the industry is looking to incorporate artificial intelligence to address guests’ needs in real time. Integration is key to connecting facilities and services, transforming the guest experience from the hotel network.

Digital transformation in air travel: Security and travel experience are a priority, and new technologies such as Bob.io offer contactless solutions for automated baggage handling, reducing crowds and improving passenger health and safety.

Generative artificial intelligence to personalise the tourism offer. The capacity for information, data analysis and personalisation has multiplied. This redefines the role of travel agencies towards personalised advisors and highlights the importance of adapting the offer to diverse demands.

Destination management must evolve to adapt to the diverse demands of different generations of tourists. Sustainability becomes a transcendental issue, demanding intermodality models and multi-destination experiences for a more sustainable alternative. In short, the digitisation of tourism in Spain is an ongoing process, driven by the need to adapt to the changing demands of tourists and new generations. The efficient integration of emerging technologies, the personalisation of the offer and sustainability will be fundamental for the future of the sector, transforming it into a smarter and more tailored tourism.

Digital Transformation in Tourism Destinations: Success Stories

Discover how three tourist destinations in Spain have shone in their digital transformation, leading the way towards tourism intelligence and consolidating themselves as benchmarks. Murcia, Benidorm and Malaga have set the pace in the digitalisation, sustainability and reactivation of the sector.

Murcia: Pioneer in tourism intelligence

The Region of Murcia has led the way in the development of tourism intelligence systems with 12 destinations belonging to the National Network of Smart Tourist Destinations (DTI). Thanks to public-private collaboration, Murcia has established itself as a smart destination based on five strategic pillars: sustainability, innovation, technology, accessibility and governance.

Innovation and technology are driven by the macro-project ‘Mimurcia’, linked to the Smart City strategy. Murcia DTI, focused on geolocation, tourist flow analysis and big data tools, promises a smart experience, with special emphasis on citizen participation through social networks.

Sustainability is key, with the creation of the Tourism Sustainability Observatory, addressing environmental and socio-cultural issues to preserve Murcia’s natural and cultural heritage.

Benidorm: Sustainability and efficiency in action

Benidorm stands out as a sustainable jewel on the Costa Blanca, recognised at COP25 as a Sustainable City. With 32.16% green area, innovative projects such as ‘Verde Benidorm’ and ‘Benidorm Vision 230’, the city has efficiently integrated water management, soft mobility and carbon footprint reduction into its digital transformation.

Benidorm, Smart and Sustainable Tourist Destination’ seeks to improve competitiveness, quality of life and tourism positioning. With goals such as water quality management on the beaches and the promotion of cultural heritage, Benidorm stands out for its comprehensive approach to sustainability.

Málaga: Europe’s Silicon Valley benchmark in Smart Cities

Forbes considers it one of the ten best cities in the world. Málaga has evolved from a sun and sand destination to a benchmark in sustainability, innovation and culture. Its focus on health protocols, sustainability and cultural promotion is reflected in initiatives such as hackathons and the creation of its own Silicon Valley, attracting global technology companies.

Málaga, the Andalusian capital with the greatest projection as a Smart City, stands out in the Smart Cities Spain 2023 Index. The technology park, Malaga TechPark, contributes significantly to the city’s GDP and employment, consolidating its position as a European Security Engineering Centre for Google.


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