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Smart Tourism Strategy: the Fifth Element


“If you want something done, you must do it yourself!”

Le Cinquième Élément (Luc Besson, 1997)

The 2019 edition of FiturtechY – the monographic section on technology organized by Fitur and the Hotel Technological Institute – has had as its motto “The Fifth Element: Technology” and has been focused on how technology influences tourism, the configuration of Tourist destinations (and the boom of so-called smart tourist destinations), the business that is created around them and sustainability; How technology influences the future of the tourism industry.

If technology is the fifth element in the design of the smart tourist strategy… which are the others? I invite you to continue reading. I define and analyze it in this article. Oh! And if you want to know why I have chosen a phrase from Le Cinquième Élément to headline this article and why it made me think… you will have to read to the end.

First element: Analysis

This first element was very well explained by Ainhoa Raso (manager of Cegos Spain) in her paper in FiturtechY “Intelligent tourist destinations: from strategy to action”. The first thing we need to make a tourist destination become a smart tourist destination is to do a deep and thorough analysis exercise.

Of what? From the management model that we will apply to the destination and the global model in which it is integrated, so that we would know the potential of the destination we are working on and determine to what extent it will be able to open its own market – Blue Ocean Strategy – instead of having to fight to survive in the existing tourist markets.

In this research and initial analysis of markets we can also apply Artificial Intelligence, another element for the construction of a Smart Tourist Destination, of which I will speak a little later.

The analysis also helps us to determine the needs in the process of transforming a tourist destination into a Smart Tourist Destination. “When you analyze processes, you see what technology can help you achieve the goal” pointed Tomeu Benassar, CEO at Logitravel Group, regarding the paperless objective of the chain. An affirmation that applies to any objective.

Second Element: Strategy

The initial analysis allows us to know the data we need to design the Strategy that leads us to turn a tourist destination into a Smart Tourist Destination. Technology is, at this point, a firm ally of the Smart Tourism Strategy, because the Right Data analysis – let’s stop talking about Big Data in general to make it concrete in the data we need to make strategic decisions – is the basis on which to build the DTI Strategy.

As we heard in FiturtechY during the presentation of the research study on the degree of implementation of new technologies in the Spanish hotel sector, carried out by the Hotel Technological Institute, know and understand (very important this nuance) the interests and what elements trigger the satisfaction of tourists is key to a more effective and efficient planning of the Intelligent Tourist Destination Strategy, anticipating changes in trends.

In addition, and as pointed out by Ainhoa ​​Raso in her presentation, when designing the Smart Tourist Destination Strategy it is necessary to evaluate the tourist experience in all its phases, that is: before the tourist arrives at his destination, during his stay in the destination and after he has left. With what objective? With that of generating Customer Delight * through the development of a culture that generates, in a constant way, memorable experiences that surprise the client and fill (or exceed) their expectations regarding the destination.

* Customer Delight: we call this the action of surprising a customer by exceeding their expectations and, therefore, creating a positive emotional reaction in them.

After Customer Experience, Customer Centric… Costumer Delight seems to me a great way to synthesize that relationship we maintain with our clients, that bidirectional need to design and execute experiences for them and that these are the reason for their preference when choosing us and of their fidelity.

Photography by E.

Third Element: Personalization

“How we adapt to the new customer is the real challenge for the tourism sector”, the phrase is Jimmy Pons’, co-founder of, and expresses the essence of this Third Element in the design of Smart Tourist Destinations. The tourist demands personalization, in all aspects of the tourist experience.

For Jesus Gatell, vice president of the Hotel Technology Institute, what this demand for personalization means is one thing: “we have to discover the wishes, concerns and needs of our customers, because the key to promoting destinations is in the experiences that can be lived in them, in moving the traveler, not in inventing tourism. ” And to excite the traveler, the tourist, the first thing we must assume is that “not everything is for all customers and not all customers are the same” (Alejandro Lista, Director of eCommerce Western Europe – TravelClick).

Knowing the tourist is fundamental in the personalization of the experience and in the design of the Smart Tourist Destination and, in this process, the technology reappears as a differentiating tool, because it allows us to put the client in the center – something that you have already heard me speaking about in my MasterClass for Ostelea from the beginning of the last academic year, re-designing the tourist experience – and, at the same time, satisfy their needs through it.

In the words of María Carreño, Business Development at Altran, “technology allows us to achieve new objectives but there has been a paradigm shift. We need to put the client in the center and use our technology to help him, with this we will have a good ROI “.

How does technology intervene in the personalization of the experience and the Smart Tourist Destination? From multiple areas. We have already discussed the previous influence through the analysis of Right Data and the design of the Smart Tourism Strategy. The technology also influences the perception that the tourist has of the destination during his stay, through the connection with the same by means of the elements that compose it: hotels, restaurants, places to visit, shops …

It is the conception of destiny as an experiential whole with which the tourist connects together. In this context, “the concept of success is being able to connect” assured Cristina Calvo, general director of Asuaire Travel.

In the era of personalization, in the field of Intelligent Tourism Strategy, “there is nothing more pointer than to bond and treat others well,” says the psychologist Ana Isabel Saz in her presentation Emotions: truths and well-being.

Fourth Element: Digitalization

In my article REPORT: Digital Transformation in Tourism, I was already talking about this Fourth Element and I was bringing forward that from the technological point of view, tourism and digital transformation has four axes: cloud, mobile, IoT and social. In addition, it included online reputation in the equation and told you that “in the world of tourism, competition is based on the presence, differentiation and online reputation, referents in the strategy of a digital tourism company.”

At Fiturtech, we have seen that the next step in the digitalisation of the relationship with the customer and the customer’s own tourist experience is through the implementation of blockchain (which, according to Iñaki Armada, CEO of Just Smart, provides tourism with confidence, security, agility and control), voice chatbots – theme that focused a part of the day Customer experience in the tourism sector, organized by The Valley & eMascaró and which I mentioned in my article What is digital? – as well as virtual assistants.

In this sense, I want to recover here a phrase by Fernando Gallardo related to digitization, artificial intelligence and voice chatbots that I have read these days on his Twitter: “In the future that begins, in the next decade, telephone calls will not be made by human beings but the digital assistants of people “. I suspect that this statement will have a long way in the tourism industry and in the design of the Smart Tourism Strategy.

Speaking of online reputation, in FiturtechY Rafael González, managing partner of Vivential Value, said that “new technologies have meant that the reputation of brands is more exposed to the public” and asked: “Are we really applying the assumed advantages to our benefit? ” In this sense, for José Francisco Rodríguez, president of the Spanish Association of Experts in relation to clients, it is key “to strengthen the link between brands and their clients, to turn them into apostles and to create relationships in a natural way, regardless of the channel”.

Finally, with respect to Digitization there is a fact that we learned in FiturtechY, from the panel of experts in technology applied to the hotel and tourism, which we already suspected: the consumer adapts faster to the Digital Transformation than the companies themselves.

It is surprising and fascinating at the same time, to verify that our learning curve in everything related to digital has improved (and will continue to improve) in recent years. The daily routine with which we understand technology and perform digital operations puts us many times ahead of companies, that if they do not have that agile mentality and apply fast decisions, they are rooted in finding perfect solutions that delay their digital transformation processes.

The Fifth Element: Technology

According to the research study on the degree of implementation of new technologies in the Spanish hotel sector, carried out by the Hotel Technological Institute and presented within the framework of FiturtechY, 56% of the hotels are concerned with investing in technologies that bring them closer to the customer, as well as technologies that can improve the customer experience. If we talk about hotels with 4 or more stars, the percentage described goes from 56 to 72%.

What does the Study show? In addition to the shortcomings in digitalization and implementation of technologies in the Spanish hotel sector (there are some and I will tell you about them in another article), it shows that “the hotelier is being aware of the impact of technology on his business and wants to know more about how technology can help you. ” These are the words of César Romera, IBM Business Development Director, whom we have heard at the discussion table “TechYhotel Project: result of the research study on the degree of implementation of technologies in hotels in Spain”, within the programming of TechYnegocio.

Technology is in the crosshairs of the sector and has become that Fifth Element that has served as a thread for the FiturtechY of 2019 and for this article because “it offers us to be more efficient and provide a better service”, which Tomás would say Rodicio, CIO of Palladium Hotel Group. It is more: the technology is determinant until the point of which “the last experience that we have when interacting with the technology, is the one that marks us our minimum expectations”, asserted Jose Alvarez de Pereda, Design Technical Sales Leader for Europe in IBM.

A very important part that is experiencing an exponential development in recent times, within the technology applied to the Smart Tourism Strategy, is Artificial Intelligence. Although it is still too early to determine what influence and future applications it will have, at Fiturtech, we have seen that there is already someone who asks where, when and how to apply it.

Some applications of Artificial Intelligence in Tourism will be market research (of which I already spoke in the First Element of this article); in the discovery, design and improvement of communication channels with the client; Of course in the automation of processes (at the same time something similar will happen in other sectors, such as the restoration); and in the creation of new products.

What has become clear in FiturtechY is that Artificial Intelligence applied to tourism is not an option, if what we want is to design Smart Tourist Destinations: it is a necessity. And it comes to revolutionize the sector through the differentiation of the offer, the personalization of the services and the anticipated identification of trends.

To close this Fifth Element, I want to share with you the thoughts of Alex Luzarraga, Head of Travel Audience and Destinations in Amadeus, during his participation in the round table “Ecosystems of innovation, formula for sustainable tourism”. Luzarraga said that “technology has changed the role of travelers: now they are looking for a complete experience beyond simply moving”.

For him, the technology “will allow sharing data to make life easier for travelers”, and that “technology speaks the language of data, not money. That is the language of the future. “

Speaking of innovation, Luzarraga considers that “it is increasingly open, strategic, technological and based on data”. And technology is the tool that, in his opinion, is boosting the leadership of companies in the field of innovation.

An affirmation with which I totally agree. But technology is not the goal: it must be the vehicle that helps us generate better experiences, commercialization, operations or revenue, without forgetting that our sector is eminently, a sector of people for people.

RSC: The Sixth Element of the Smart Tourism Strategy

There is a question that we have been talking about for months in this space in which we share knowledge, reflect, learn and move forward: What is sustainability applied to Horeca? It is similar to the question that FiturtechY 2019 has touched upon: What is sustainable tourism? Within the Smart Tourism Strategy, Sustainability and CSR are two fundamental pillars. To be able to apply them, it is necessary to define Sustainability in tourist key.

Alex Luzarraga defined Sustainable Tourism as one that is not overcrowded, that is diverse and accessible, that seeks to minimize the ecological footprint, as well as generate through its activity a positive social impact

For Kike Sarasola, president of Room Mate, sustainable tourism and social commitment go hand in hand in Smart Tourism Strategy. Therefore, if Technology is the Fifth Element, the CSR (centered on the People Product Planet of which you will continue to hear me speak and write about) is the Sixth. An element that is beginning to develop and that will grow unstoppably in the near future.

“Smart destinations are increasingly linked to sustainable, inclusive and accessible travel, without negative impact on the ecosystem and with a positive local impact,” said Alex Luzarraga, who added that “with the rapid development of technology, the role of Private companies are changing to build more sustainable contexts. “

Room Mate Hotels and its new sustainable project, Ecolución, is a clear example of how to make tourism smart and sustainable, it is the companies that have to bet on it, becoming smart and sustainable at the same time.

Kike Sarasola presented Ecolución en FiturtechY (a project that we will analyze very soon here, in an article that I recommend you not to miss), an inspiring initiative that condenses a vision on sustainability as a strategic bet for the tourism sector, as well as defines a catalog of best practices which are summarized in this: RSC applied to each element of the Room Mate hotels and the commitment to an innovative and responsible customer experience.

Why so and why now? Kike Sarasola expresses it loud and clear: because “our sector has to set an example”. Ecolución proposes a global sustainable strategy in which, for example, we work with formulas to eliminate plastic in the equation of the amenities and the uniforms of Room Mate Hotels staff are 100% recycled. Transform your company to transform the sector. That’s what the Sixth Element is about.

13 phrases to inspire the building of Smart Tourism Strategy

In these three intense days in Fitur we have heard about interdisciplinary experts in tourism that have inspired us with their work, their speeches and their way of seeing the future of the industry. I want to share with you 14 phrases that have been especially inspiring to me. I hope you are also invited to reflect.

“The era of intuition is over”

Álex Villeyra, Chief Operating Officer & Costumer Success Department MABRIAN

“The biggest companies do not survive, but the ones that best know how to adapt”


“The hotelier is aware that technology is important for his business: from blockchain to Artificial Intelligence for a better customer experience”

César Romera, IBM Business Development Director

“The smaller action is better than the bigger intention”

Ainhoa ​​Raso, Manager of Cegos Spain

“All those who have done their homework with RE to redecorate, rethink, rethink … will not have problems with their hotel business”

Kike Sarasola, president of Room Mate Hotels

“The most exciting thing of the moment in which we live is that we have the intelligence and the sufficient tools to handle the challenges and challenges that arise in the tourism sector”

Diana Robino, Senior VP Global Tourism Partnerships of MasterCard

“In Artificial Intelligence we must worry about the fundamental elements of information in three aspects: privacy, security and bias. It is very important to preserve the ethical elements of the people”

Elisa Garijo, Director of Technology and Innovation at IBM

“Technology has to be accessible for all customers and for all workers”

José Ángel Preciados, general manager of Ilunión Hoteles

“The influencer is not a distribution platform anymore because you take away its main value, which is its naturalness. If you give it a script, it will not be authentic and the audience will notice it “

Belén González, Head of the Turespaña Area

“The moment we pay someone to say what we want, the marketing of influencers is lost, authenticity is lost. You have to guide the message, but do not control it 100% “

Sergio Gómez, Online Marketing Manager (Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center)

“When you work with a blogger, your content remains in time. In addition, they know how to use the keywords to stay in the first places. I always get a blogger when I have to do an action “

Mariano Torres, director of El Santo Comunicación & Specialist in Digital Marketing applied to the Tourism sector

“The strategy of humanization of the product is indispensable. I do not think that Siri or Alexa will be influencers in the short or medium term “

José Ramón Álvarez, Commercial and Marketing Director of CANTUR – Government of Cantabria

“The value of innovation is not in avoiding copying you, but in getting everyone to want to copy you”

Ignacio Fernández-Lerga, F & B Manager of Melia Hotels International

Smart Tourism Strategy, Technology & Speed

Juan Sanguino writes in Vanity Fair about The Fifth Element – a cult film starring Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich and Gary Oldman in 1997 – that the importance of the film, which has made it an icon twenty years after its premiere, is not what it does, but how it does it. I wanted to start this article with a quote from The Fifth Element as a nod to the film that probably inspired the motto of FiturtechY 2019, but also because Sanguino’s criticism made me think.

In my article The Smart Tourism Challenge of June of last year, I told you that “Spanish companies have already started some kind of digital transformation process” and stressed that “it would be necessary to insist on another of the characteristics of digitalisation: the speed . The current rate of change is unprecedented in history, which implies the need to create more flexible and dynamic structures and processes, in constant adaptation “.

To that technological development associated with the tourism industry we have heard from great experts at FiturtechY, I would add one more factor: speed. Paraphrasing Sanguino: maybe the important thing about technology (associated with tourism, Horeca or any other sector) is not only what it does, but the speed at which it does it. Now we must begin to raise mechanisms to be able to manage that speed and put it at the service of the sector.

Curiosity to understand the evolution, agility to detect the solutions that we can implement and make the right and quick decisions to execute a strategy of (constant) digital and technological transformation are probably the three characteristics that organizations should inculcate in their circles of executives, decision makers. We live in a videogame in which screens pass with a speed that surprises us, in an environment that changes day by day and in which knowing how to move is a must to maintain leadership, to innovate and continue to seduce a client who, as I have already told you, it assumes the technology with a wonderful facility and asks for more and more.

I invite you to continue the conversation on my Social Networks. Do you have questions that you would like to ask me? You can do it at [email protected] and at #AskBallarin.

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