Adopting travel tech: How to become a smart tourism destination

May 6, 2024

Ivan Verkalets

CTO, Co-Founder at COAX


Feeling like you are lagging with your travel offerings? No wonder 80% of tourists need smarter and more sustainable travel experiences. The industry is changing: smart tourism is no longer a niche – it’s a giant tidal wave. Smart tourism turns generic, old-fashioned travel experiences into highly personalized, efficient, and eco-friendly ones. 

Of course, technology plays a role in smart transformation, but how do you build the right strategy? Keep reading to learn how to use travel tech in your business to become a business that offers what tourists crave.

Smart tourism statstic

Trends in smart travel you need to adopt to thrive

Tourists always tend to choose something convenient and easily accessible. However, according to McKinsey, as of last year, only 11% of hotels and 25% of hotel rooms are supported by a mobile hotel app. To be the one who stands out with fast, simple, and efficient offerings that cater to their needs, you need to adopt technology in tourism. Let’s see the latest trends you don’t want to miss.

Sustainable travel is the new black

Travelers today care deeply about the environment. 76% of global travelers say they want their trips to be more eco-friendly, and many want to reduce their carbon footprint. Destinations are responding by going green – cities like Valencia and Ljubljana became popular smart destinations with pedestrianized historic centers, implemented smart bike shares, and set ambitious carbon-neutral goals.

Sustainable travel trends

By embracing sustainability, destinations can meet eco-conscious traveler demands and lead the industry toward a greener future. Your efforts in this direction can inspire others and make a significant difference in the world we live in.

Hyper-personalized journeys powered by travel tech software

To make their destination truly smart, business owners use the help of travel tech agencies and providers. Why? Today's savvy travelers expect experiences tailored just for them. Destinations use AI and big data to analyze traveler preferences and behaviors, allowing them to offer unique itineraries, provide personalized recommendations, and optimize the entire trip. A higher level of personalization is no longer a luxury but a necessity in the competitive tourism industry.

For example, a coastal destination could provide personalized road trip route suggestions to visitors based on their surfing, hiking, or gastronomy interests. Catering to specific needs results in high visitor flow and great revenue — as you see, Paphos and Sevilla were named the European Capitals of Smart Tourism without losing their heritage in the smart travel wave.

Tech in travel to outpace your competitors

The pandemic has turbocharged the need for innovation in tourism. Social distancing and safety concerns caused an urgent need for contactless technology for check-ins, no-guide personal excursions, and virtual experiences instead of physical ones. Fueled by this push, destinations are now adopting cutting-edge technologies to make travel both safer and more exciting:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) becomes a real-time journey – historic sites are using AR to reconstruct ancient architecture and see the life of people in times of old.
  • IoT-powered systems allow each smart traveler to access venues, information, and payments through their smartphones – making it contactless and simple.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) offers remote exploration – smart destination reviews praise virtual tours as they give a chance to make the best choices of venues before ever stepping foot there.

For example, the historic Colosseum in Rome has implemented an AR experience that lets visitors see digital recreations of the ancient Roman structure on the site of the existing ruins, providing a sense of immersion for travelers that attracts more visitors.

The future is smart: How to become the #1 travel-smart choice?

In a globally changing, shifting, and moveable society, you can no longer rely on the old ways to lead your travel business. There will simply be more modern and versatile options available. But give your guests better accessibility, some options to be more sustainable, and a way to share and research within your existing app, platform, or amenity – and you’ll see the difference. Let’s look further into the smart tourism definition.

Smart tourism is a strategic approach where destinations, attractions, and tourism businesses use advanced technology and digital tools to enhance how visitors experience and interact with their offerings. Smart tourism meaning is not for technology only – it’s also for adapting your services and offerings to different needs. Let’s see what we mean.

What key components of smarter travel should you implement?

To understand how to create a game-changing experience for your customers, you need to see their needs and how to improve them.

Accessibility for a smarter travel

To make your destination smart, you should ensure everyone can access and enjoy a destination, regardless of age, ability, or language. Examples? For people with visual impairment, providing smart booking screen reader options for their travel is the only way to give them access. 

Accessibility is not about technology alone: you should start by adjusting your overall setup to attract people with disabilities to your loyal customer base. Make sure your hotel rooms meet accessibility needs, especially for people using wheelchairs. Of course, each entrance should be equipped with a safe ramp and provide convenient special restrooms. And don’t forget that lower and wider beds help make your hotel much friendlier for disabled people. You win ethically and financially by showcasing it as one of your main value propositions.

Advanced technology is another way to improve accessibility, especially for foreign travelers. For international tourists, adaptable multilingual information, both online and on-site, will simplify their journey, and digital navigation tools will not only help them find their way to attractions but also allow you to optimize your offers and free up some of your staff.

smart tourism solutions
Source: FrontDesk

Smart sustainability

40% of Gen Z and Millennials are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly tourism. Using technology to reduce a destination's environmental impact is crucial for smart tourism. You can try including solar-powered lighting, smart waste management systems, and digital tools to track carbon emissions.

By implementing these green innovations, you're not only helping the planet but also appealing to the growing number of eco-conscious travelers. Sustainable tourism is growing very rapidly, and you should grow with it. You can attract conscious tourists by providing charging stations for electric vehicles and other EV-friendly amenities.

technology in travel and tourism
Carbon Footprint & CO2 Tracker

Information sharing

Nowadays, travelers want to share every minute of their trip – and do it on the go. Did you know that, according to Statista, at least 52% of tourists expect their mobile apps to plan their trips? 

And it’s more than just planning – using social media allows the sharing of real-time, personalized information that adds to the joy of the trip and gives business owners more spread and reach. Smart destinations should be transparent and allow reviews and experiences to be out in the open, as being updated is simply a must for tourists. 

Custom-built mobile apps give visitors instant access to information about your destination, such as up-to-the-minute updates on attraction wait times, event schedules, and transportation options. Based on the user's interests and location, apps can also deliver personalized recommendations. 

Social media also lets you share real-time updates and engage directly with visitors. Responding to requests and encouraging user-generated content drives better reach and engagement. Another example of information sharing is placing QR codes throughout your destination to provide historical information, offer dining options, and enable mobile orders with built-in payments – and you can increase revenue by collaborating with facilities.

Smart research and management

Smart tourism providers use data and analytics to better understand visitor behavior and make informed business decisions. 80% of businesses report an increase in revenue due to using data intelligence. You can create better-optimized facility layouts, tour programming, and events by analyzing foot traffic patterns, dwell times, and activity preferences. For example, at your theme park, real-time data can adjust ride queues and staffing and make an exciting and convenient experience.

Moreover, you can improve transportation and equipment allocation by using sensors and algorithms to monitor real-time demand. Using such technology can bring value to varied travel and tourism businesses. For example, a smart parking app that directs drivers to available spaces reduces congestion and makes it a #1 choice for peak hours, and hotels that use guest data to customize the pre-arrival and on-site experience turn visitors into true brand advocates.

Personalized experiences and smart tourism competitiveness

Nobody wants one-size-fits-all experiences nowadays. One key component of smart travel is providing highly personalized experiences for visitors. And such an approach can be made omnichannel! For example, Atlantis, The Palm resort in Dubai, uses guest data to customize everything — from the welcome amenities to activity suggestions during the stay. 

Personalization can also become your main positioning advantage in the travel market. By investing in the latest travel technology, whether it's augmented reality experiences or automated translation services, smart destinations can differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. Don’t be shy about emphasizing that users can control the lighting and temperature in their hotel rooms with a simple app — tourists love it simple and useful.

Smart Parking app

Smart tourism solutions to make up for every cent

Since we mentioned travel tech, let’s see what you can implement to make your business future-proof and attractive to global visitors.

IoT tech in travel

Internet of Things (IoT) technology can bring a wealth of value to your smart tourism business. Examples of benefits include a better visitor experience and improved operations. Here are some key IoT applications for smart tourism:

  • Wearable devices: Fitness trackers monitor guests' physical activity and build personalized routes and resort gym training programs. Plus, NFC allows people to make purchases around the resort without their wallet or phone – who wants to take it to the beach anyway?
  • Translated tours and check-ins: Wearable translator devices help tourists understand the commentary during guided tours and simplify check-in and check-out processes.
  • Multilingual menus: IoT-connected tablets in hotel rooms and restaurants can display menus in the guest's preferred language so they don’t struggle with translators.
  • Indoor occupancy control: Connected sensors can track visitor numbers and movement within hotels, attractions, and other facilities, enabling better crowd management – so your visitors never stand in line.
  • Fire prevention: Safety is a priority – and IoT sensors can detect fires early and activate emergency responses to protect visitors and facilities.
  • Air, water quality, and pollution monitoring: To cater to the needs of sustainable tourism adopters, IoT sensors can monitor air quality and pollution levels in real time, allowing them to take action to improve environmental conditions for visitors.
  • Asset tracking: IoT tags on hotel equipment and supplies allow staff to monitor inventory and streamline maintenance – and your staff is better allocated.
  • Room automation: IoT-enabled systems allow guests to control lighting, temperature, and other in-room features via a mobile app or voice commands.

More than just smart booking: travel marketplaces to benefit from

Apart from the solutions you can get from travel tech companies, you can utilize smart travel marketplaces to centralize and digitize your offerings. Instead of developing your travel tech software, you can benefit from their built-in options.

  • Better booking experience: Rather than scrolling multiple websites, travelers can browse, compare, and book all their activities through the marketplace — and you can connect all your and partner amenities to get the greatest ROI.
  • Collaborative ecosystem: it allows destination management organizations to work closely with local tour operators, activity providers, hotels, restaurants, and attractions to provide offerings that cater to the evolving visitor needs.
  • Easy visibility and discovery: no matter how smart your destination or business is, without exposure, it won’t get many tourists to find you. By uniting a destination's tourism products in a single platform, you can drive more bookings for local providers.

What is advanced travel tech offering you? 

In addition to the IoT and travel marketplace solutions discussed, several other innovative technologies can help make travel businesses and destinations "smart."

  • Data and AI to serve your revenue: You can optimize your tourism offerings and marketing strategies by evaluating browsing and booking behaviors with data analysis and artificial intelligence. Predictive analytics can forecast travel demand and optimize pricing, and chatbots and virtual assistants will provide 24/7 customer support.
  • AR and VR to make it unforgettable: Virtual tours of destinations, hotels, and attractions help tourists plan trips, and reconstructing attractions’ history can become your best way to attract more visitors.
  • Easier payments with blockchain: Smart travelers are often interested in using contactless payment due to its transparency and security. For your business, it also allows you to check a visitor’s identity easily and offers loyalty programs and reward redemption.

Smart tourism destinations examples

We mentioned some examples of destinations using smart city tourism and travel technology to become smart. Now, let’s see which ones we can learn from.

European Capital of Smart Tourism 2024 smart travel winners

In 2024, the shortlist for the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition featured five cities trying the most efficiently to become the ultimate smart destination:

european capital of smart tourism

Bremerhaven in Germany is using IoT and smart city technologies, such as intelligent traffic management systems and sensors, to monitor air quality and optimize waste collection. It also offers a smart tourism city mobile app with real-time data on various events, interesting places to visit, and kinds of transportation to use.

As a smart tourism destination, Cork in Ireland focused on sustainability and accessibility. With the new programs, travelers can charge their car or bicycle throughout the city to travel smarter. Its initiatives provide multilingual city guides and assistive technology in cultural venues.

Italian Genoa, the perl of European tourism, is using digital technology to show tourists around its immense heritage. The city has created AR experiences that allow exploring historical landmarks and learning about local traditions. It also implemented a parking system to help travel-smart drivers find and pay for parking spots.

Swedish Helsingborg uses travel technology to optimize its offerings – and tracks visitor behavior to tailor its events, attractions, and services. Helsingborg also developed a travel marketplace that connects tourists with local businesses, promoting sustainable and authentic experiences. 

San Sebastián focuses on sustainability and innovation. The city uses smart tourism solutions for waste management. San Sebastián also offers a mobility app that integrates public transportation, bike-sharing, and ride-hailing services.

European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism 2024 list

To see the very core of smart tourism meaning and practices, let’s look at the strides of these cities featured in the European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism 2024 shortlist.

Grevena in Greece implemented great eco-friendly initiatives – promoting local, organic cuisine and developing nature-based tourism experiences. The city finances the development of renewable energy sources and solutions for waste management to reduce its environmental impact.

Karawanken-Karavanke UNESCO Global Geopark in Austria/Slovenia pioneered sustainable tourism practices, including using electric vehicles, promoting slow tourism, and protecting fragile natural environments.

smart tourism destination

Do you have a strategy for implementing smart tourism?

If you are wondering where to start, here's your step-by-step journey for your online travel agency, hotel, or entertainment amenity to become smart with tourism technology:

  1. Conduct an all-in-one audit of the destination's existing tourism infrastructure, digital capabilities, and sustainability practices. What to look at? Analyze visitor data, transportation patterns, and energy consumption to identify areas for improvement.
  2. Define clear goals and objectives directly connected with the principles of smart tourism (e.g., enhancing the visitor experience, improving sustainability, increasing efficiency) to develop a roadmap. For example, set a clear aim to reduce carbon emissions by 20% through the implementation of smart mobility solutions.
  3. Decide whether you would benefit from integrating travel tech software or utilizing the abilities of travel marketplaces. It can depend on the number of connected participants, your need for targeted marketing and visibility, and your budget.
  4. Connect with providers of sustainable travel tech and physical assets like renewable energy. Offer collaboration and loyalty programs to public transportation providers or bike-sharing to offer packages for smart travelers and grow mutual benefits. For better exposure, engage with other local businesses, government agencies, and community members.

Define clear performance metrics and regularly review the effectiveness of smart tourism initiatives. Analyze visitor feedback and usage data to refine the digital services, enhance experience, and share knowledge and ideas with other destinations.

Make your destination smart with COAX

Now that you know what travel tech is for smart and sustainable tourism, let’s summarize your main benefits and strategies.

Modern tourists demand convenient, personalized, sustainable, and accessible options. Destinations that embrace smart technologies will stand out, allowing tourists to explore destinations remotely and get packages and offerings specifically for their needs. The Internet of Things (IoT) is also making travel smarter. Imagine your customers managing venues, payments, booking, automatic translation, and support without actually involving your staff in the processes!

Some smart travel destinations are already changing the game globally. But sure, evolving into a smarter travel business is an overwhelming journey. COAX has a proven track record of successful travel tech solutions developed for our clients. We can analyze your market opportunities, define a clear roadmap for technology integration, and help you build omnichannel smart tourism solutions.


What is smart travel?

Smart travel is an overall description of using technology and data to make traveling more efficient, accessible for a wider audience, convenient, sustainable, and personalized.

Who is a smart traveler?

A smart traveler is someone who uses apps, websites, and other digital tools to find the best deals, avoid crowds, and discover unique, eco-friendly cultural experiences.

What is a travel smart app?

A travel smart app is a mobile application offering services like trip planning, navigation, language translation, currency conversion, and access to local recommendations.

What is a smart tourism city?

A smart tourism city uses technology to improve the visitor experience, making it easier and more enjoyable for tourists to explore the city, adopt sustainable practices, and recreate history and culture.

How to find smart tourism destinations?

Look for cities and regions investing in digital infrastructure and travel tech. Research destinations online, read travel blogs, and turn to apps and websites that aggregate travel information and offer smart destination reviews.

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