On June 22, Zhou Xianghong, professor of the School of Economics and Management at Tongji University, delivered a speech entitled Consumption Upgrade and Smart Tourism in Sustainable Intelligent Urbanization Seminar Series organized by Tongji University. In this lecture, Professor Zhou explained the necessity of consumption upgrade in tourism and shared her views upon Smart Tourism from six aspects: Definition of Smart Tourism, Differences between Smart and Traditional Tourism, Practice of Smart Tourism, Controversy over Smart Tourism, Construction of Smart Scenic Spot and Future of Smart Tourism.
In the era of Internet, rapidly updating technology like big data, cloud computing, 5G and face recognition has changed this world to an extent which was unimaginable ten years ago, so does the tourism, where the online tickets purchase, self-driving traveling, and mobile payment have reshaped the consumption pattern of tourists in the last decade.
With a large amount of tourist attractions, Shanghai attracts thousands of visitors every year. However, due to a lack of diversity in tourist products, the figure for tourist consumption is not that satisfactory.
There’re two groups of tourists whose consumption preferences are far different from existing tourist products: teenagers who were born in 1990s or 2000s and the High Net Worth Individuals. Undoubtedly, it’s urgent to upgrade the consumption pattern of tourism.
As more people have access to the Internet, channels for tourism marketing changed from fax to search engine, and now to social media. The value chain of tourism gradually became distributed, decentralized and immaterialized. That was the time when Smart Tourism, a solution providing information, products, and personalized experience related to tourist resources and activities using new generation of digital technology and mobile handsets, was put forward.
In principle, whether smart or not, the target of tourist services is to provide the most suitable traveling product for tourists, i.e. precise matching. Traditional tourism relays heavily on travel agencies, while smart tourism bases upon social media, intelligent customer service and IT-related companies.
Typically, a smart tourism solution contains three aspects: simultaneously promotion of tickets, environment, e-commerce, tour guides, travel agencies, weather conditions, etc.; online 24 hours promotion with WeChat and weibo; smart scenic area management, including facilities management, customized service and digital contract between travel agencies and tourists.
Smart tourism analyzes the behavior and demand of every tourist, then provides him with the most precise information appealing to his interest. But will tourists like this? From a philosophical perspective, the meaning of traveling is to experience a sense of refreshment when a person moving from a familiar place to a rather different place. Will tourists prefer it if smart tourism could offer tourists exactly what they like or even offer them the virtual experience to visit those places without stepping out home? Considering tradition and new technology, perhaps the most important factor in smart tourism is the feeling of customers instead of the convenience of services.
To operate a successful smart tourism solution needs a multi-discipline team with experts from economics, tourism, cultural research and data science. Lacking of talents is also the most problematic part in today’s smart tourism field.
At last, Professor Zhou summarized that although smart tourism and those fast-growing platforms posted threat on traditional travel agencies and tour guides, a mixed economy where platforms and traditional services co-exist would be expectable.