In 2014, each individual owned an average of 1.7 connected objects, including smartphones, tablets and smart watches. According to forecasts, by 2020 over five billion people will be connected to over 50 billion objects. Some cities have already understood that very well. They are the Smart Cities: New York, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam and others. Their goal is to enhance tourists’ experiences. And they are not alone. All the tourism players are going digital to offer you beautiful emotions!
Smart Cities on the horizon
In a world where forecasts say 70% of the population will live in cities by 2050, the Smart City is not just desirable, but also indispensable to solve the many resource challenges most urban areas face, from space to mobility and financing.
Information and communication technologies (ICT) are at the heart of Smart Cities. They have loads of sensors to give residents a host of real-time information, from air quality levels to the temperature, traffic conditions and parking space availability. This level of information allows citizens to quickly adapt to the situation.
Smart Cities make their residents shrewder, if not wiser! They enhance their quality of life and encourage them to take part in local democracy. But they also keep sustainability in mind and encourage environmental protection, for example by allowing access to green means of transport. The information collected and citizens’ choices converge towards the same goal: managing resources as responsibly as possible to ensure the planet’s future.
Why visit a Smart City?
The idea of a “Smart City” naturally leads to that of a “smart tourist destination”. Why visit a Smart City? Besides the fact that it would sound quite trendy to tell your friends, “We’re visiting a Smart City this year,” Smart Cities enhance the tourist experience. A hyper-connected city makes it easier to book accommodation, choose transport in real time and explore the city with multilingual guides, contextualised recommendations and opinions from other tourists or even locals.
The magic of augmented reality gives visiting museums and historic landmarks a new twist: for example, strollers in the gardens of Versailles can get information from their smartphones by using GPS or superimposing the filmed image. Showing castles the way they looked centuries ago and how they changed over time gives cultural visits a new dimension
Some Smart Cities, such as New York, London and Copenhagen, are often held up as examples. So is Barcelona, where sensors in the irrigation system of the Parc del Centre de Poblenou keep gardeners aware of the water level in real time. Another of the Catalan capital’s innovations, and not the least, involves turning traffic lights green so that first responders can reach the scene of an accident faster.
Urban planners flock to Amsterdam, where residents are encouraged to rent their bikes or cars when not using them, public lighting depends on the activity observed and some historic houses along the canals are gradually being updated to meet the highest environmental standards. New neighbourhoods are rising from disaffected boats and quays, such as the De Ceuvel quarter on the north bank of the IJ; others are springing up out of the water, like IJburg, which is comprises five manmade islands. This self-sufficient, hyper-connected quarter is heaven for founders of start-ups and trendy 30-somethings.
How to become a smart tourist
Between two smart cities, the hyper-connected tourist is also a “smart” tourist. Or, we would say, a shrewd one. For example, smart tourists don’t worry about losing their luggage, even though 25 million pieces of luggage are lost every year. Why? Quite simply because they own connected suitcases like Bluesmart. They know where it is at all times and, if it gets lost, go and find it.
In the street, beacons — small sensors using Bluetooth technology — locate and identify smartphones passing by. Some retailers use them to beckon passers-by into their shops. The British airline EasyJet uses them in airports for another purpose: to help travellers find their way around with a mobile app and inform them every step of the way.
Tourists can stay hyper-connected on the plane: onboard augmented reality is possible! For example, in January 2015, the Australian airline Qantas made Oculus Rift headsets available to passengers on the Sydney-Los Angeles flight, allowing them to view the A380 taking off or take a 3D tour of Kakadu National Park in Australia. Travelling during the journey is a new virtual reality experience!
Hotels are also getting into the act in order to offer their guests the most beautiful possible experience. AccorHotels has several tricks up its sleeve, including the AccorHotels app, which underscores the group’s desire to make its guests’ lives easier. It brings together all the apps each of the group’s brands offers (ibis, Novotel, Adagio, Mama Shelter, etc.). This all-in-one app accompanies travellers from pre-booking to post-stay and allows them to keep important information about train or plane trips and access guides to the city they are visiting so that they can be as organised as possible.
The Novotel brand’s innovations are another indication of the group’s digitalisation. For example, PLAY, an interactive table, offers solo travellers and families several entertaining games. What could be better than playing Angry Birds before setting out to explore a city? Novotel also offers an efficient virtual concierge service to help guests choose a nearby restaurant or cultural activity, find out about the weather or send a digital postcard. It’s a must!