The tourism revolution is here. It is being digitalised. And that includes you

The tourism revolution is here. It is being digitalised. And that includes you.

17-11-2021MICHELS

What does the city of Eindhoven have to do with certain tourist troublespots in Mallorca? On the face of it, not a great deal, but tourism is now all about sharing experience of good practice from wherever this may be. Eindhoven is best known to the world for Philips. It isn’t known for its tourism. But it is a city, like others, with a nightlife area. And that’s where the connection with Majorca can be made.

Segittur is a Spanish state-run company that is dedicated to the management of tourism innovation and technologies. Its objectives include the improvement of tourism competitiveness through new technologies and thereby the promotion of the image of Spain as a tourist destination.

Under image comes how people behave - some people - and also where these some people behave, like tourist resorts of international importance on account of the interest shown in them overseas.

In Eindhoven, they’ve created something known as ‘Public Sound Sensor Safety’. It is an “intelligent monitoring system” that detects any type of conflict from analysis of sound collected by sensors on street lights. This real-time sound detection is monitored at the police command centre.

A sound heat map is created, while artificial intelligence is used to differentiate between incidents, be these arguments or acts of aggression. Security cameras complement the surveillance. Police operational decision-making is thus optimised. In Eindhoven, there is rapid response to fights and there is rapid response to prevent fights in the city’s nightlife district.

How effective this system is I can’t say, but for Segittur it is an example of good practice, one to be found in a report of “fifty good digital practices for a new generation of destinations”. This is a report which, it’s fair to say, is well-timed, as it provides examples of what digitalisation of tourism means. Now referred to over and over in public statements, this digitalisation represents a panacea for the future, not just for tourism but also for whole economies and whole ways of life. A panacea, and yet what do the majority of us know about it?

Digitalisation is a word, a concept bandied around constantly. We get the basics, as we are aware (or should be) of everyday digital existence, but digitalisation, as it is spoken of by experts and politicians (who aren’t necessarily the same people), has a more profound connotation. It will essentially govern our lives, whether we wish it to or not.

The great bet of the European Union, via the lavish Next Generation funds, is on this movement, allied as it is with sustainability and the green economy. Resource management is an aspect of digitalisation, and resources include the cops. The Eindhoven police, were they blessed with a whole army of officers, would probably be able to mount permanent guard in the nightlife district. But the city’s force, as with those of other cities or municipalities, can never be that numerous. Therefore, it’s all about being smart, and “smart” is used interchangeably with “intelligent” when it comes to the digitalisation of tourist destinations.

One particular Mallorcan troublespot, Punta Ballena, is periodically visited by an expeditionary force of law enforcement officers. But they can’t be permanent. Eindhoven sensors could therefore be an application for the remaining period of time that Punta Ballena is a troublespot before it is finally transformed into something akin to Palma’s Born, and where the sensors will only therefore need to be tuned to detect the sound of motorcycles rented by members of Neapolitan gangs intent on snatching Rolex watches from the wrists of millionaire tourists strolling back to the five-star beach club hotel.

“The moment for digitalisation is now.” This is the headline statement on page 13 of Segittur’s lengthy report. The European digital decade, to which the report refers, offers an “enormous opportunity for our (Spain’s) tourism over the coming years”.

The great challenges include “capturing strategic tourist segments”, “increasing the spending and satisfaction of travellers”, “building visitor loyalty”, and “managing the overload of public services created by tourism”. This latter one means the likes of the cops, while the other three - it could be said - all apply to Punta Ballena and a digital transformation to accompany a physical one in Magaluf.

Additional challenges have been added because of Covid. The one example of good practice in the Balearics, but also in Barcelona, Benidorm, Gandia and Salou, has to do with “intelligent beaches”, e.g. the smart beach app with real-time capacity data. Spain provides a number of the 50 good practices, which have otherwise been gathered from across the globe. To mention a few - Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, the Seychelles, the UAE, Argentina, and the Netherlands in the case of the Eindhoven sensors.

The tourism revolution is here. It is being digitalised. And that includes you.

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