Smart cities boost tourism, says UNWTO Secretary General
Nur-Sultan, Oct. 10 (IANS): Smart cities not only make peoples lives easier, but they are also a boost to tourism, the Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization, Zurab Pololikashvili, said Thursday.
“Smart cities have enormous capacity to positively influence not only the lives of the people who inhabit them, but also have a great influence on tourism,” Pololikashvili said in the Kazakh capital at the start of the 8th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism, Efe news reported.
More than 1,400 representatives from 80 countries are taking part in the four-day event organised by the UN agency and the Mayor’s office of Nur-Sultan under the theme ‘Smart Cities, Smart Destinations.’
“The tourism sector must interact with society, with local authorities. We have to explain the role of tourism in the economic development of every country,” he said.
He said tourism was currently developing very quickly, which has begun to cause a series of problems related to the sector.
“This forum offers a space for ministries and mayors of cities to talk about tourism,” he said, while citing Nur-Sultan as an example of a smart city.
“20 years ago there was a potato field here, and today it is one of the most modern and fastest developing cities in the region (of Central Asia),” Pololikashvili said.
Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin said the country’s authorities intended to work with large international companies to promote tourism.
“Currently, tourism accounts for 10 per cent of GDP, 10 per cent of jobs and 5 per cent of the total industry,” said Mamin, who stressed that this sector helped the sustainable development of cities.
The northern Spanish city of Barcelona’s director of Tourism, Joan Torrella, told Efe that the great changes that occur in tourism worldwide are mostly related to technology.
“I would perhaps underline the individualization of the tourist experience. More and more people are forgoing large tour packages to travel instead with smartphones with our knowledge we buy customised and last-minute experiences,” he said.
Torrella said the phenomenon is prominent in Barcelona, which makes planning in the sector more and more difficult “because the visitor self-manages and decides at the last moment what things to do at the destination where he is going.”
The other important trend, in his opinion, is “the role played by large internet platforms as intermediaries of supply and demand, especially in tourist accommodation.”
“This has changed the paradigm of the visitor with the destination, because the ease of contacting the buyer and the seller has broken the rules of the market game,” he said.