Future of tourism: Vaccine passports require digital cities
Big cities may rely on historical sights and antique treasures to draw in the tourists, but they can still benefit from infrastructure upgrades. Driving this evolution in the near-future will be tourism, one of the industries most rocked by Covid-19 that is steadily preparing for a post-pandemic world in which people are free to travel again.
Big cities may rely on historical sights and antique treasures to draw in the tourists, but they can still benefit from infrastructure upgrades. Tourism will drive this evolution in the near-future. As one of the industries most rocked by Covid-19, it is steadily preparing for a post-pandemic world in which people are free to travel again.
The Covid effect
Bringing travel back to normal levels could mainly rely on the use of digital so-called “vaccine passports.” Meant to ensure the safe recovery of international travel post-pandemic, these passports would provide proof of inoculation upon arrival. Perhaps unsurprisingly, China has already unveiled a digital vaccine passport accessible on the WeChat instant-messaging app.
If such passports are widely adopted, a traveller’s journey may pose challenges for unprepared cities. Heading into restaurants, hotspots and accommodation, technology would be needed to read one’s passport. There’s also no guarantee that vaccinated individuals are unable to transmit the virus, posing a headache for Destinations Management Organisations (DMOs) needing to control capacity to prevent contagion.
One simple solution for virus prevention is reducing contact. Travel companies across the tourism supply chain have already adapted to consumer preferences with no-touch tech and contactless technologies. It’s not unusual now for lodging hosts and airlines to offer individuals the chance to check-in digitally and control aspects of their journey and experience through an app on their smartphone.
Almost half of all respondents in a GlobalData poll from 2020 declared they were investing in contactless/no-touch tech to reassure customers during the pandemic. South Korea has a term for this new way of doing things: “untact culture.” But while the country has some of the smartest and most modern cities in the world, the "untact tourism" being pushed by Korea’s tourist industry actually prioritises the kind of places tourists can enjoy while keeping their distance: large outdoor areas, mountain trails and rural spots that are far from the madding crowd.
This drive could see more tourism diverted from urban areas to countryside ones, thus solving for DMOs issues of capacity and contagion – all without the aid of any technology.
Mind the tech gap
Technology is still key to the future of both tourism and cities. The relationship between tech and travel needs to become closer, and smart cities will definitely strengthen this bond. Closely aligned with Internet of Things technology, smart cities improve the provision and development of urban services through tech. For example, smart cities can offer improved capacity planning and management through big data. By analysing data on where tourists visit and at what time, flow models can be made to predict the popularity of tourist spots and help DMOs prepare in advance.
London has hooked up this kind of data with that of its public transport system, offering tourists an official city guide app created in partnership with Transport for London. The app uses real-time data feeds to guide visitors around the city’s top tourist locations in the most efficient way possible.
It’s clear DMOs will need to collaborate with local stakeholders to reinvent and rebuild more responsible and effective tourism strategies post-pandemic. The combination of tech and collaboration are the two key factors that will not just lead to more responsible tourism management but also a better experience for tourists overall.
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