Our research on this topic focuses on what we name Tourism 4.0.
Tourism 4.0: disrupting the digital infrastructure supporting cultural visits
The rising notion of smart tourism will disrupt the today’s tourism digital system that mainly relies on web-based solutions to manage the different phases of a cultural visit (e.g. to a city of art). The driving forces of this transformation are basically two, one on the tourists’ side and one on the destination side. Both focus more on during (and after) the visit than on planning and organizing the visit itself. On one hand, the tourists’ expectations are changing and more and more demanding to live a visit as a personal, complete and engaging experience. On the other, there is the need to improve the capability to attract new audiences and to manage the territory by properly balancing the burden of tourist flows while ensuring sustainability of minor cultural sites. These emerging needs respectively rely on technology-mediated visit’s experiences and their enhancement through personalization, context-awareness and real-time monitoring, and on destinations becoming more and more populated by a variety of objects, such as radio tags, sensors, actuators, mobile devices etc., which are pervasively deployed. The convergence of these technologies will enable the required shift in service provision, moving from the vision of always-on web services to always-responsive situated services, built and composed at run-time to respond to a specific tourist’s need and behavior, and able to account for the user’s context during the visit.
These arguments lead to envision a new digital scenario where digital cultural resources and services will all be around us, persistently available, creating conditions for new applications and enabling new ways of self-organizing visit itineraries, enjoying the cultural resources, ensuring sustainability, experiencing the visit and sharing it. Tourists are supposed to be immersed in a multidimensional space consisting of a ubiquitous infrastructure and of increasingly complex and dynamic connectivity that supports real-time interactions not only with one’s context, but also with the social structure directly or indirectly related to the individual. As smart objects are at the junction between the physical and digital worlds, and smartphones connect these two dimensions with the social structure of individuals, we are in practice envisioning a cyber, physical and social system with the tourist at the centre.
The design and the implementation of such a multidimensional system generate a huge amount of challenges that require the combined adoption of the most advanced methods and digital technologies. They include data mining and knowledge extraction to generate the intelligence to augment the tourist’s experience, privacy preservation with the perspective in which people hold and own their data, security enforcement at the junction between physical and digital spaces, architectures and protocols ensuring the efficiency required by real time interactions and processing, learning techniques to model and predict tourist’s needs and behaviors, and many others.
The new envisioned tourist-centred digital system and all the above research efforts need to converge onto a new setting of the tourism digital system whose ultimate goal is to provide tourism consumers and service providers with more relevant information, better decision support, better resource management, greater mobility, and, ultimately, more enjoyable tourism experiences. However, these achievements cannot be pursued by simply letting to evolve the digital infrastructure we have built so far to support the variety of tourism’s processes. By contrast they advocate a radical departure from the current adoption of digital technologies and service offer.
Our research is performed inside the VASARI Project.
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