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4 Key reasons European tourism leaders are shifting away from digital audio tour guide app development

The European tourism industry is evolving, with significant changes already in motion. Noteworthy progress within this sector is the strategic shift of destinations from developing their own digital audio tour guide apps to adopting ready-built platforms like SmartGuide. But why they are doing so? The answer lies in factors like poor design, costly development, short app lifespan, app overload, or limited downloads.

A European tourist using SmartGuide Digital audio guide on his mobile phone

We'll now explore these factors and the challenges faced by destination marketing organizations (DMOs) when attempting to develop their own successful app, shedding light on the reasons behind their failures. We'll also show audio guide platforms, such as SmartGuide, are effectively addressing the hurdles encountered during app development.

Challenges faced by the tourism industry in tour guide app development

A transition in the European tourism business is noticeable as key players are progressively distancing themselves from the creation of their own digital audio tour guide apps. This trend can be largely attributed to 4 key challenges they encounter:

1. Inability to meet the high expectations for travel app design

Design expectations are high among visitors who are accustomed to the polished interfaces and functionalities of popular travel apps like Uber,, Airbnb, or Google Maps. The development of such apps requires extensive resources—both in terms of time and manpower—that many tourism boards simply do not have. As a result, apps developed by city officials have poor design and often fail to meet modern user expectations, thereby limiting their effectiveness.

Travel app design can be difficult to achieve for European Tourism leaders

Developing such apps demands significant time and manpower resources.

2. Lacking the budget to cover the high costs and time commitment of comprehensive app development

Another hurdle is the substantial financial investment and time commitment required to build a comprehensive app. Basic apps can be developed relatively quickly and affordably, but a feature-rich app demands significant funds. Major destinations like London and Vienna have allocated around 1 Million Euros for their apps each, with the development process potentially extending over several years. It took the city of Prague a span of two years, along with substantial budget overruns, to successfully launch its city app. When working with limited financial resources, it becomes crucial to proceed with caution, as the output's quality often aligns with the level of investment made.

3. Inability to provide app maintenance, resulting in its short lifespan

A crucial but often overlooked aspect by many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) is the necessity for consistent and literally neverending app updates. This need arises from the continuous operating system updates released by technology giants like Apple and Google. The neglect of this vital maintenance can lead to app malfunctions and crashes within the first 2-3 years.


Source: Google

Furthermore, constrained budgets and intricate development processes often impede adequate upkeep, resulting in outdated apps for tourists that progressively lose visibility on platforms such as the Google Play Store. Hence, the lifespan of these apps becomes a significant concern, underlining the importance of regular updates and maintenance for their sustained functionality and relevance. App maintenance is part of the core product for platforms like SmartGuide, but a completely uncalled-for headache for DMOs.

4. Inability to score sufficient downloads due to app overload

Travelers' reluctance to download a new app for each destination they visit, known as 'app overload', adds to the problem. They do not want to learn a new interface for each destination they visit. Visitors generally prefer familiar apps like Uber,, and TripAdvisor which are available across different locations. Apps with low downloads and ratings often get overlooked, reducing their visibility and appeal.

These challenges highlight why the tourism industry is moving towards platforms, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with new and new apps. SmartGuide is a good example of such a platform, enabling destinations, tourist attractions, and travel businesses to create immersive multilingual digital audio guides in a matter of hours.

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Why spend months or YEARS developing an app doomed to fail, when you can just join a working solution used by thousands of other destinations?

SmartGuide - The world's #1 Digital Travel Guide Platform

The European tourism industry, heavily impacted by the pandemic, is adapting to new challenges. In 2020, EU tourist accommodations saw a 51% decline in nights spent, but 2021 saw a 28% rebound, nearing two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels. Predictions indicate a full recovery of international travel by 2025 and domestic travel by 2024. This period has prompted the industry to reassess digital strategies, with destinations switching from creating their own guide apps to adopting digital guide platforms like SmartGuide.

A female tourist showing SmartGuide app map on her mobile phone

This ready-made destination management and guiding technology alleviate the need for destinations to develop their own audio tour guide apps. With SmartGuide, visitors no longer need to download multiple apps for different destinations. It provides a single digital audio guide that covers over 100,000 tourist spots worldwide, offering a convenient option for independent travelers. By addressing safety concerns and the desire for hassle-free travel experiences, SmartGuide is well-placed to support the ongoing recovery of the tourism industry, meeting the new demands of the post-pandemic world.

Addressing limitations of traditional app development

SmartGuide's advanced technology addresses many of the limitations of traditional app development. It saves both time and budget, mainly because unlike custom-built apps, SmartGuide requires no additional maintenance costs from destinations or travel businesses operating digital guides. The development team at SmartGuide is continually upgrading the app in response to the most recent modifications in the app stores. This feature alone significantly reduces financial burdens and helps ensure visibility and seamless interaction for users.

It also includes a free Content Management System (CMS) with AI-powered text-to-speech and auto-translation features for creating and publishing multilingual digital audio guides, offering convenience, customization, and the potential to elevate visitor exploration. This makes it easier than ever for destinations to tailor their content to a diverse audience. Furthermore, creating digital guides with SmartGuide’s content management system only takes mere hours.

Want a real example? For instance, even a beginner could turn a traditional paper guide into a digital audio guide offering multiple tours for Petworth in just 4 hours. This included spending 2 hours capturing photos at various points of interest (POI) around Petworth, and another 2 hours utilizing existing web content and informational boards. Certainly, those who are more expert can create a guide in less than an hour, thanks to SmartGuide's content management system.

Visitors prefer a guide to the world, not a single-destination app

Visitors, too, have much to gain. With the SmartGuide app, they can access detailed and engaging guides and self-guided tours in 102 languages, including Chinese, French, German, Spanish, English, Hindi, Slovak, Croatian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Afrikaans, Dutch, Finnish, and many more. This extensive language support makes the platform accessible to a global audience.

Visitors prefer a digital audio guide such as SmartGuide on their mobile phone

SmartGuide also enthralls visitors by providing enlightening narratives, user-friendly navigation, and offline maps. It goes beyond the conventional text-based approach by utilizing audio stories and multimedia content. This strategy results in happier and loyal users, who become powerful advocates through verbal marketing, thereby attracting more visitors.

Consider the story of Mariánské Lázně, a charming spa town in the Czech Republic. Even though it's a beautiful place to visit, the town had trouble attracting younger tourists who usually enjoy engaging and interactive explorations. To address this challenge, they digitized their city guide on the SmartGuide platform.

SmartGuide, leading digital audio guide platform transformed Mariánské Lázně

Mariánské Lázně's partnership with SmartGuide showcases tech's tourism-enhancing potential.

Now, visitors can enjoy exciting audio tours, mapped routes, and highlights of must-see locations in town. Furthermore, the guide is available in English, German, and Czech, eliminating language barriers. Barbora Tinterova, from CITY TOURISM BUREAU, Mariánské Lázně, shared her enthusiasm for the platform: "We first digitized the guide to our city on the SmartGuide platform in 2017 and we immediately won first place in the Golden Coat of Arms competition with it, which recognizes innovations in tourism. Since then, the application has improved even further and everything works perfectly."

Platforms provide complex big-data insights and analysis

With SmartGuide, destination management organizations get access to accurate and detailed insights through big data dashboards and GPS heatmaps of visitors' behavior. SmartGuide also offers expert analysis of visitor demographics, acquisition channels, and popular tours or places. This data can be invaluable for destination management organizations looking to understand their audience better and make informed decisions.

SmartGuide CMS - GPS heatmap of tourist behaviour

GPS heatmap of tourist behavior on SmartGuide's CMS

Thanks to this, SmartGuide has the ability to collect and analyze visitor data in different setups - not just destinations but also events or multi-location outdoor exhibitions, like the International SculptureLine Festival. In such events, exhibits are scattered across different locations, even spanning cities and countries. Organizers need to measure the popularity and engagement of each exhibit. SmartGuide provides distinctive QR codes for each exhibit, tracking visitor numbers, nationalities, exhibit interactions (including duration and language preferences), and traffic sources. This allows organizers to gather precise data and understanding for future event decision-making.

Platforms offer services to support their core business - including marketing services and consultations

In addition to its core features, SmartGuide also offers destination marketing services and expert consultations. See for example, how SmartGuide significantly helped improve tourism in Karlovy Vary by bringing attention to lesser-known attractions and encouraging the use of city cards. The app provides a tour of places eligible for City Card discounts and sends alerts to visitors when they approach these areas. This strategy has optimized visitor distribution, boosted the local economy, and encouraged extended stays.

Karlovy Vary City Card


SmartGuide audio tour guide platform is a complex solution that tackles the problems of audio tour guide app development for destinations. It offers benefits for both tourism leaders and visitors, making it an excellent choice for any destination management organization or tourism board.

Karlovy Vary Metro Leisure on SmartGuide

SmartGuide's self-guided tours have been transforming the Karlovy Vary tourism ecosystem!


It is evident that tourist destinations face significant challenges in developing digital audio tour guide apps. These include unsatisfactory design outcomes, costly and lengthy development phases, brief app lifespans, and the issue of app overload. However, SmartGuide emerges as a complete way out. It simplifies the process for DMOs and travel businesses and improves traveling by providing a single digital audio guide covering over 100,000 global tourist spots. This platform addresses app overload and improves visitors’ engagement.

SmartGuide transcends traditional app development limitations and could prompt a new direction in the tourism industry. Its potential to streamline operations and uplift visitor satisfaction is important for the future of tourism.

Are you interested in exploring SmartGuide's potential? Contact us today.