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Marketing smart tourism cities – a strategic dilemma

Marketing smart tourism cities – a strategic dilemma

Coca-Stefaniak, J. Andres ORCID: 0000-0001-5711-519X (2019) Marketing smart tourism cities – a strategic dilemma. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 5 (4). pp. 513-518. ISSN 2056-5607 (doi:

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There is a growing consensus among scholars in neuroscience with regards to the adverse effects of technology on the cognitive functions of the human brain (Loh and Kanai, 2016). These include the processing of emotions, memory and the storage of lived experiences. In fact, this has been shown to be particularly applicable to regular users of smartphone-based mobile applications (Wilmer et al., 2017). Rather worryingly for today’s prevalently technology-based conception of what a smart tourism destination should deliver, recent research has shown that visitors’ intentions to preserve the memories of a visit to a tourism attraction by engaging with mobile media (e.g. taking photos and sharing them with others via social media) during their visit may actually prevent those same visitors (though perhaps not the recipients of their photos via social media) from remembering the very experience they are trying to preserve (Tamir et al., 2018; see also Soares and Storm, 2018). Furthermore, research has also shown that this ‘hyperconnected’ state of affairs may be altogether detrimental to visitors’ enjoyment of the overall experience (Barasch et al., 2017). For those tourists who can still boast an adequate level of battery charge on their smartphones after a busy visit spent updating social media profiles with new photos whilst trying to simultaneously absorb the multi-sensory experience offered by the tourist attraction, there is further bad news. Similar neurological research has shown that people who are over-reliant on satellite navigation systems for way-finding (say, back to the hotel or to a restaurant highly rated on Tripadvisor) tend to perform worse at finding their way in the absence of their digital aid than those who rely on paper maps (McCullough and Collins, 2019). Parallel research in tourism has argued that this ‘smart’ technology-enabled tourist may run the risk of alienation (or “e-lienation”, to use the term coined by Tribe and Mkono, 2017) from their surroundings and missing out on potentially enriching experiences offered by the tourism destination. All in all, this should be rather worrying news for aspiring and existing smart tourism destinations. Why? Well, given that memorable experiences remain arguably a desirable goal in the design and delivery of visitor experiences, it appears that technology could be actually conspiring to rewire our brains in the opposite direction (Ward, 2013). Should, then, smart tourist destinations strive to become more efficient at delivering other services instead of memorable experiences? Maybe, though this is perhaps particularly applicable to some of the earlier models in the smart cities longitudinal spectrum. In fact, there is growing consensus around the fact that technological innovation (Pinke-Sziva et al., 2019; Skeli and Schmid, 2019) can alleviate some of the effects of overtourism, particularly in the context of smart tourism destinations (Gretzel and Scarpino-Johns, 2018). This includes ‘smarter’ transport solutions, even if we know that residents and tourists will differ considerably in their assessment of urban mobility improvements (Albalate and Bel, 2010). However, all this is part of what smart cities (presumably) do already. Consequently, if the whole raison d'être of the ‘smart’ concept applied to tourism destinations rests mainly on the proviso of experience design and delivery, where do the insights from the latest neurological research leave smart tourism destinations? Should the next generation of smart tourism destinations re-consider their strategic focus altogether?

This special issue of the International Journal of Tourism Cities (IJTC) on “Overtourism and the Marketing of Smart Tourism Destinations” attempts to shed light not only on the overtourism phenomena but also on a nascent field of research: the marketing and branding of smart urban tourism destinations. Inevitably, and given that both topics can hardly be considered in isolation, much of the research showcased in this special issue, including this editorial, explore also elements spanning the overtourism phenomena and the marketing and management of smart tourism destinations, chiefly from an urban perspective.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: smart cities, smart tourism destinations, overtourism, marketing, branding, city marketing, city branding, place marketing, place branding
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Department of Marketing, Events & Tourism
Faculty of Business > Tourism Research Centre
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2019 12:46

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