Knowledge Main Headline

Smart tourism trends discussed at IFT forum

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Smart tourism is rapidly making its way up the agenda of policymakers and industry operators within the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and Macao is no exception. The concept was recently discussed at a forum held by IFT.

The Public Forum on ‘Smart Tourism, Smart Destinations’ took place on 22 February at the IFT Grand Hall on the Mong-Há Campus. Speakers included Deputy Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Mr. Ricky Hoi, Hong Kong scholar Dr. Rob Law, and Wynn Macau Ltd Executive Director of Research, Planning and Strategy, Dr. Jason Ni.

Mr. Hoi noted during the forum that, although smart tourism was still a relatively new topic, MGTO had been paying close attention to this trend for some time.

When the Macao Government and technology provider Alibaba Group signed in August 2017 a framework agreement to push forward the development of Macao as a smart city, tourism was one of the sectors highlighted as likely to get support. Earlier this year, during the Chinese New Year festive period, MGTO for the first time made use of so-called ‘big data’ to forecast visitor flows around the city, in order better to manage crowds at tourist attractions.

Dr. Law, from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, explained to forum participants that smart tourism referred to “technological, economic and social developments fuelled by technologies that rely on sensors, big data and open-source data.” He added that meant traditional tourism had evolved to become reliant on information technologies and the use of software applications for mobile devices, in order to expand and improve visitors’ experience of a destination.

According to the European Union, “smart tourism responds to new challenges and demands in a fast-changing sector, including the expectation [from consumers] of digital information, products and services; equal opportunities and access for all visitors; sustainable development of the local area; and support to creative industries and local talent.”

Wynn Macau’s Dr. Ni – in his role as a representative of a private-sector tourism venture – highlighted during the IFT forum that the use of smart tourism concepts in Macao could translate into a “win-win-win situation for tourists, vendors and the Government.”

Momentum now building

All forum speakers agreed that momentum was building in the Greater Bay Area regarding the use and development of smart tourism-related tools. They added that the next step would be to advance in-depth cooperation in this field between the cities covered by the Greater Bay Area initiative.

The Greater Bay Area concept encompasses the efforts of the 2 Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China, namely Hong Kong SAR and Macao SAR; and 9 cities from Guangdong Province, namely Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing. It aims to advance and integrate development in the Greater Bay Area in relation to matters including the economy and trade, environmental protection, and tourism.

Some participants attending the IFT forum posed questions to speakers about issues related to user data privacy, namely protection and confidentiality of individual information collected by smart tourism-related software. Dr. Ni argued that users should – based on their individual needs – strive to find the right balance for them between the level of convenience offered by smart tourism apps, and concerns about data privacy. He added it was essential always to get express consent from tourists to collect their data, and also to offer them the opportunity to cancel that authorisation at any time.

The forum on smart tourism was part of an ongoing series of open-to-the-public events organised by IFT to promote training, education and research within the Greater Bay Area. The series is hosted jointly with Sun Yat-sen University’s School of Tourism Management, in Mainland China, and the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

“Smart tourism is a new and narrow topic, but we still managed to have 80 registrations for this forum,” says Dr. Leonardo Dioko, Director of the IFT Tourism Research Centre, the body which put on the event. “The figure reached our expectations,” he added.

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