Skip to content

Strategies for digitalization in tourism - Integrating digital tools in tourism management

The tourism industry is undergoing rapid shifts, fueled by digitalization. As travel becomes more interconnected and data-driven, projects focused on digitization are receiving significant funding to support these advancements. Therefore, integrating digital tools into tourism management is becoming essential for improving visitor experiences.

One such digital solution making an impact in the tourism sector is SmartGuide. This app serves as a personal tour guide, offering detailed information and guidance to travelers directly through their smartphones. In this blog, we will explore how integrating digital platforms like SmartGuide into tourism management can enhance operations and improve visitor satisfaction.

tourist listening to digital audio guide

What are the key digital tools in tourism management?

Digital tools are changing tourism management, offering greater convenience and efficiency. Here are some key technologies making a notable impact on the field.

Online booking systems

Online booking systems offer substantial benefits to both tourists and tourism businesses. They provide a seamless, user-friendly platform for travelers to book accommodations, activities, and transportation, resulting in increased convenience and efficiency. Businesses, on the other hand, benefit from the ability to manage bookings in real time, track customer preferences, and amplify their services accordingly.

Online and app bookings, although not new, are expected to see major growth in the coming years. In fact, the online travel booking market, valued at $432 billion in 2020, is projected to nearly double by 2025, reaching an estimated value of $833 billion. This rapid expansion underscores the importance of being present where potential visitors are actively searching for travel destinations.

A critical component of this change is the rise in mobile bookings. It is estimated that about 70% of travelers use their smartphones to book holidays, with 72% of these mobile bookings occurring within two days of conducting a Google search. This brief window from search to booking presents both challenges and opportunities for destinations. Therefore, it is important for Destination Management Organizations (DMOs) and tourism boards to proactively maintain their online presence and image. This includes ensuring visibility on platforms like TripAdvisor, Expedia, or SmartGuide. A robust online ecosystem, responsive review strategies, and up-to-date, engaging content are key factors that can influence a traveler's decision.

For destinations and travel businesses, this means focusing not only on reaching potential visitors through mobile devices but also on crafting and maintaining high-quality, engaging online interfaces and content across various portals.

Mobile apps and digital audio guides

Mobile apps and digital audio guides play a great role in providing travelers with the necessary information, navigation assistance, and personalized recommendations. SmartGuide's digital audio guide app, for example. features multilingual support, interactive maps, and customized suggestions based on user preferences and interests. By offering tailored information and easy-to-navigate interfaces, digital guides, and travel-related mobile apps in general boost traveling encounters and help tourists make the most of their visits.

Tourist enjoying self-guided tour

Social media platforms

Social media platforms are vital for marketing and visitor engagement in the tourism industry. They provide a space where destinations can share compelling content, interact with potential visitors, and build a loyal following. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok or Twitter allow tourism boards, destination management organizations, travel attractions and tourism businesses to showcase destinations through photos, videos, and stories, creating buzz and attracting more tourists. Effective social media strategies can lead to increased brand awareness, higher engagement rates, and ultimately, more bookings.

Integration of augmented reality

Augmented reality is increasingly being used to improve tourists’ exposure. In 2021, the AR market was valued at $8.6 billion, and it's projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 38% by 2030.

This growth extends beyond the tech or gaming industries, significantly impacting tourism as well. According to a Kantar study commissioned by Snapchat, up to 93% of travelers indicated they would use augmented reality at some point during their trips in the future.

This rapid adoption is driven by several factors: rising consumer interest in engaging adventures, advancements in AR technology making it more accessible and affordable, and the development of solutions that simplify AR integration for DMOs and tourism businesses. Companies like Wikitude, HiVu, and Echo3D specialize in developing AR models. Additionally, tour guide systems like SmartGuide can host and publish AR models for destinations and tourist attractions, simplifying the process. Even without sophisticated AR models, destinations and attractions can create intriguing AR experiences using authentic historical photos, which can be turned into AR objects on platforms like SmartGuide, making AR implementation more straightforward.

augmented reality feature in SmartGuide app

 A geolocated image or video blends history into the present when viewed at the place of interest in SmartGuide app

Open data projects

The push for digitalization is set to spur a surge in open data projects. Governments and industries worldwide are making investments in these initiatives to support the shift towards more digitized infrastructure.

A notable example is the German Knowledge Graph (GKG), an extensive open data project that serves as a crucial asset for various applications within the tourism industry. Now live, the Knowledge Graph offers all stakeholders—such as global sales platforms, tourism service providers, start-ups, and digital platforms—access to over 200,000 current, high-quality data sets available for free download. These data sets encompass 100,000 tourism assets, including Points of Interest, tours, events, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and 100,000 additional essential infrastructure elements. Compiled from all 16 federal states, the Knowledge Graph functions as the central database for Germany’s tourism industry. For instance, travel apps and software can utilize this extensive network of data to provide accurate content, increasing the relevance and adaptability of travel experiences.

general knowledge graph , Germany

                             Knowledge Graph, Source: open-data-germany.org

How to improve tourism management with the world's #1 digital audio guide platform

Established to aid the travel industry and independent travelers, SmartGuide serves as a hub for audio guides, much like YouTube is a hub for videos. It offers several key features that make it an effective tool for both tourists and tourism content providers. Here is how:

  • The SmartGuide platform has broad coverage, encompassing over 1300 destinations globally and 6,000 self-guided audio tours by local guides.
  • The platform supports the creation of guides in 102 languages, including but not limited to Chinese, French, German, Spanish, English, Hindi, Slovak, Croatian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Afrikaans, Dutch, and Finnish.
  • It also supports the translation of content into 30 languages.
  • Thanks to precise geolocation and set trigger zones, SmartGuide alerts travelers to nearby points of interest, automatically starting the audio for engaging stories and more insight so that no interesting site is overlooked.
  • The user-friendly interface of the SmartGuide app makes it easily accessible to people of all ages.
  • Available to download for free from Google Play or App Store.
  • A free content management system equipped with AI-enhanced text-to-speech and auto-translation features facilitates effortless localization of content.
  • Destinations and travel businesses interested in operating digital guides can do so without incurring additional maintenance costs.
  • Precise and comprehensive insights are available through SmartGuide's big data dashboards and GPS heatmaps, enabling destinations and tourism businesses to understand their visitors' behavior.
  • Expert data analysis is offered to understand visitor demographics, acquisition channels, and popular tours/places.
  • Services for destination marketing and expert consultations are readily available.
  • Businesses also have many in-app promotion opportunities to advertise their offerings, e.g. via POI Advertising.

SmartGuide has been successfully implemented in hundreds of destinations, museums, attractions, and tours as an official audio guide solution, yielding positive results in terms of visitor satisfaction and sustainable tourism. Here are some real-world applications.

Prague

Known for its beauty and historical significance, Prague has long struggled with overcrowding. The influx of tourists to popular spots strained local infrastructure and diminished the visitor experience. SmartGuide addressed this issue by digitizing paper guides and creating compelling digital content that encouraged exploration beyond the over-visited city center. This approach inspired app users to spend 30% of their time exploring lesser-known areas, helping to distribute tourists more evenly across the city.

According to Petr Soukup, Digital Specialist at Prague City Tourism: "Publishing 10 walking tours on SmartGuide allowed us to expand the content beyond what fits in paper brochures, and it only took 2 weeks. But what is even more impressive, SmartGuide tours help motivate tourists to spend more time outside of the most popular crowded places."

GPS heatmap of SmartGuide tour guide app for Prague

                                                                          GPS heatmap of SmartGuide - Prague

Šternberk Castle

By replacing traditional guided tours with SmartGuide, Šternberk Castle saw a marked increase in visitor engagement. Patrons consumed 80% of the content delivered via audio, indicating high interest and interaction. During the pandemic, SmartGuide's self-guided tours provided an additional layer of safety, earning the venue a certified pandemic-safe status. This reassured visitors and led to increased footfall despite challenging times.

Helena Gottwaldová, Castle Manager, shares her thoughts on the benefits of using SmartGuide: "We use the SmartGuide application for foreign language visitors. This solves the problem of the lack of live guides speaking foreign languages. We chose SmartGuide instead of paper and traditional audio guides because the application is much more attractive to visitors. We were positively surprised by the results that during the first season, users of the application consumed an average of an incredible 80% of all content."

Sternberk castle and SmartGuide audio guide

             Digitization in Sternberk Castle with SmartGuide digital audio guide platform

It is also important to note that the company's inventive approach has also drawn considerable funding and opportunities. It was allocated €1 million from European funds to develop an Artificial intelligence model that facilitates personalized recommendations suggesting points of interest based on individual preferences. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) chose SmartGuide as a service provider for tourism digitalization projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Moldova. Additionally, it is recommended for funding by the European Commission and has been approved as a preferred digital travel services provider within the DigiTour or Tourbit project funding initiatives. These examples highlight SmartGuide as a credible partner for securing funding.

Creating digital guides with SmartGuide digital audio guide

 Are you ready to step into the digital age of tourism?

Digitalization in tourism is key to improving visitor experiences and operational productivity. Integrating digital tools like SmartGuide offers benefits such as better engagement, data-driven decision-making support, and increased accessibility. Embracing digital change positions tourism businesses for future growth and innovation, meeting the evolving demands of travelers.

Would you like to discuss digitization possibilities at your destination and how a digital audio guide could help you improve destination management?