A new tourism data economy
Tourism is one of the biggest data consumer and data producer industries. The complexity of the tourism value chain makes it difficult to understand all the interactions and synergies that happen during the tourism journey. In a period in which the data economy is being boosted, it is very important to understand the main challenges and characteristics of the tourism industry to ensure that data-sharing initiatives will respect the GDPR, the companies' competitiveness and the quality of the tourism experience.
An important aspect of the tourism industry related to data is that most of the data produced is personal. This means that all entities managing this data should respect GDPR. This is very important since the main aim of tourism is to be more competitive by increasing the tourism experience. And the best way to improve the tourism experience is to generate personalised services. But, to offer personalised services during the whole tourist journey, it is fundamental that the different entities providing the services are, on the one hand, interoperable and, on the other hand, respectful of the GDPR. And this means that tourists should accept that their data will be shared among different entities or privacy-preserving mechanisms, like the ones developed by TANGO, which will generate a trustworthy environment to boost the tourism data-sharing economy.
On the other hand, tourism is one of the most transversal sectors. It interacts not only within a data space (intra-data space) but also inter-data space. When we mention intra-data space, we refer to all the interactions between the different entities from the tourism sector. When speaking about inter-data space, we refer to all the interactions with other sectors.
Intra-data space includes all actors of the tourism value chain, from tourism destinations to small companies offering any kind of service to tourists. In this ecosystem, we will deal with big and small hotel chains, airline companies, rent-a-cars, tourism attractions, restaurants… and many companies that are part of the tourism experience without forgetting the technology companies that make the whole tourism experience become a reality.
We mustn't forget that tourists are digital, in the sense that a great part of the tourism experience is generated through mobile phones (tablets, computers..). Indeed, statistics show that most tourism transactions are made with mobile phones. And with transactions, we include from flight booking to exchanging comments on the tourism experience through social networks. This means that behind all this tourism experience, there are a great number of technology companies that make all of this possible. And this is only the beginning since new trends and AI, ChatGPT, metaverse, etc., are being used more and more in the tourism sector. This will lead to a great technological deployment to offer new tourism experiences, most of them digital or mixing worlds. The new term "phygital" summarises this relationship between the physical and digital worlds used to enhance tourism satisfaction.
But tourism also has a lot of inter-data space interactions, which means it is necessary to analyse how data could be shared between tourism organisations and companies but also with entities belonging to other sectors. A clear example is mobility, an important part of the tourism sector, and makes the initial steps of the tourism journey possible. In this regard, seamless travel seems to be the clearest example of this interaction since interoperability between the mobility actors can be easily linked with a part of the tourism experience (restaurants, hotels…). The journey itself to a tourism destination is an important part of the tourism experience. Another example, not so obvious at first glance, is health. But COVID-19 has shown how important health is for tourism and how interlinked these two sectors are in reality. And not only when talking about tourists and their health passports but also for the destinations to ensure that they are secure and safe tourism destinations. Skills are another important issue. Tourism seeks more talent and needs an urgent upskilling and reskilling strategy. And let's not forget Agriculture, especially when tourism is struggling to achieve sustainability in the whole tourism value chain, from the destination with more efficient use of the resources and the management of the tourism flows and the companies that are measuring the carbon footprint, the reduction of resources consumption, and the implementation of circular economy initiatives, for example. In this regard, we mustn't forget that the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in tourism launched by United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) establishes "the need to accelerate climate action in tourism and to secure strong commitments to support the global goals to halve emissions over the next decade and reach Net Zero emissions as soon as possible before 2050". The Sustainable Development Goals are also very important for the Tourism industry worldwide. At the European level, the Green Deal (which has its own data space) sets the requirements to achieve a more competitive and sustainable Europe by reducing greenhouse emissions and the intense use of resources, which is aligned with the main priorities of the tourism industry. So again, we need to exchange data on resource management linked with tourism activity to generate more efficiencies and more sustainable management of resources, among other aspects.
Another important aspect to consider is that around 85% of the tourism industry comprises SMEs. And the level of digitalisation of the sector is very heterogeneous. In order not to leave anyone behind and to promote the participation of SMEs in the new tourism data economy, it is very important to develop new tools that facilitate the involvement of SMEs. These must be easy to use and be suitably priced.
Keeping in mind all of the above, we can confirm that a new tourism data economy has a lot of challenges related to the complexity of the sector and the different interactions that should be generated by making the interoperability of the different data sources and the clear rules to regulate the governance that needs to be developed to ensure a trustworthy data sharing environment a reality.