Research: Adaptation and resilience of the key organizations in the Lappeenranta region after losing their main international customer segment

Introduction of the study

The aim of this master’s thesis was to investigate how organizations in the Lappeenranta region have managed the recent crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Both of these crises have tested the resilience of the destination and its organizations as they have caused the loss of Russian visitors. Russians used to be the main customer segment of the region.

Eight semi-structured thematic interviews were conducted to reach the aim of the study. The interviewees were key actors in the Lappeenranta region. They were most likely affected by the existing circumstances and had experience and insights into the matter. The types of organizations the interviewees represented were regional development, tourism development, transportation, retail, tour operator and accommodation. The data collection took place in January and February of 2023. A thematic analysis brought forward four main themes: Visitors of the Lappeenranta region, Outcomes from recent crises, Adaptation in times of crises and Possibilities from the destination.

Photo: Author
Negative impacts of the situation

The findings indicated that the uncertainty is still challenging the region. The negative impacts of the situation include for instance increased expenses, decreased revenue and changed customer flows. There has not been much time to recover after the pandemic before the next crisis hit in the form of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, seasonality, lack of resources, need for more attraction elements, changes in consumption habits and products directed to Russians only were mentioned as vulnerability factors in the region.

New possibilities

However, some new possibilities are looked for. Factors such as food, sustainability, nature, safety, pureness and cooperation provide opportunities that could further be developed. New markets are looked for among domestic visitors as well as from Italy, DACH, Benelux, Sweden and Estonia. Mass tourism is not desired. Nevertheless, interviewees agreed that Russian visitors cannot be replaced.

Photo: Author

Organizations should have active management on the matter and look for new opportunities instead of waiting for the circumstances to return to the pre-crisis state as it is uncertain to happen. There is a lot of will in the area to develop but the means might not still be known.

This study contributes to existing research by bringing information on the current circumstances in the Lappeenranta region that have had a major effect on the tourism field in Eastern Finland. It explores the use of crisis management and adaptive strategies as well as possibilities to aim for resilience. At the time of the research, the circumstances were still ongoing. The findings are based on the current insights of the interviewees and might not illustrate long-term perspectives. Therefore, further research is needed to repeat the same study later on or to investigate the process of recovery in organizations and the beneficial novel actions in the region.

Text: Ella Könönen

How digital nomads are shaping the travel industry?

How are digital nomads shaping the travel industry?

Who are digital nomads?

Technology is enabling a new, dynamic remote workforce called Digital Nomads. Digital Nomads are a population of independent workers who choose to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world. Our research finds that 4.8 million independent workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, and many more, 17 million, aspire to someday become nomadic.

Much like independents themselves, nomads are a diverse group, made up of no single generation, profession, or socio-economic class. While they skew young and male, one-third are female and 54 percent are over the age of 38. Creative professions dominate, but IT and marketing are also strong participants in the movement. One in six earn more than $75,000 annually,  although they are split relatively evenly between full- and part-time workers (54 to 46 percent).

As technology evolves and companies grow more comfortable with a distributed and remote workforce, we predict a rise in the interest in and joining of the digital nomad movement for various reasons, including work/life balance, Baby Boomers “unretiring” and more.

Digital nomads and travel industry

Post-modernism, lifestyle and technological advances have a major influence on the activities of the global travel and tourism industry. Today more and more people are looking for independence, traveling for a variety of good reasons for things that are very important to meet personal curiosity and hedonistic desires (Richard 2015, Muller 2016). This was also emphasized by Mouratidis (2018). He explained that the evolution of work, technology and nomadic work styles in synergy has broadened the choices of workers who have certain specializations to carry out their professional activities anywhere in the world.

According to Mouratidis (2018), the term of digital nomad comes from “digital” which means to involve or relate to the use of computer technology and “nomad” which refers to members who wander from one place to another without limits.

Regardless of the destination or the job they do, digital nomads have one thing in common: a passion for travel and freedom. It is a growing trend. In the United States alone, digital nomads tripled between 2018 and 2021, going from 4.8 million to 15.5 million people.

A report by MBO Partners revealed that in 2019 there were 7.3 million Americans who identified themselves as digital nomads; however, between 2019 and 2020, this figure increased astonishingly – driven by the pandemic – as it grew 49% to 10.9 million people. In 2021, digital nomads in the US grew again to 15.5 million.

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This behavior has been driven by a combination of greater labor flexibility, better salary expectations and – of course – the freedom to work from anywhere. Perhaps for this reason, the trend of digital nomads will continue to grow. MBO predicts that by 2035 there will be a whopping 1 billion digital nomads around the world.

Introducing travel bloggers, place and digital nomadism

Digital nomads are portrayed as young professionals working solely in an online environment while leading a location independent and often travel reliant lifestyle where the boundaries between work, leisure and travel appear blurred. This paper aims to conceptualize the digital nomad phenomenon by establishing a definition of digital nomads. Further, it explores their motivations for adapting this lifestyle and how these are addressed in practice, and examines how work, leisure and travel are interpreted. Digital nomads aim to create a holistic lifestyle characterized by comprehensive freedom where both areas of life are regarded as equally enjoyable and do so through professional, spatial and personal freedom. Ideally, digital nomads perceive work not as an imposed obligation but regard it – much as their leisure activities – as intrinsically motivated and fulfilling. Although crucial for a positive perception of this lifestyle, travel comes with personal challenges that are considered a different type of work.

Through communications technology, travellers can now keep in almost constant contact with friends, work and fellow travellers remaining co-present in their social, home and work life (Mascheroni 2007). Technologies such as social networking sites and blogs, are allowing individuals to shift between these multiple networks instantaneously wherever they are in the world (Paris 2012). As a result of these digital technologies and the networked connections they facilitate, new forms of multi-location work are rising. In particular, the affordance of these technologies has facilitated a huge rise in the location-independent workers termed ‘digital nomads’ (Muller 2016). Defined by Nash et al. (2018, p 1) as individuals who are ‘pursuing employment that allows for global travel, flexibility in work hours and a departure from the traditional office environment’; digital nomadism was initially coined as a term to describe a geography of work, where the location that the work was done in did not matter.

One intriguing example of a digitally nomadic worker who has not yet achieved widespread academic focus is the travel blogger. The growth of social and participatory media has led to an increase in online travel writing and has resulted in publishers, authors and readers all now becoming players in the production of travel information. Blaer et al. (2020, p 2) note how travel blogs in particular, have proliferated in the last 20 years, facilitating ‘the rise of the modern amateur travel writer’. Puhringer and Taylor (2008, p 179) define travel blogs as ‘the equivalent of personal online diaries and are made up from one or more individual entries strung together by a common theme (for example a trip itinerary)’. Travel bloggers are therefore the individuals who create and maintain these blogs. Within their travel blogs, individuals attempt to generate income through means such as paid partnerships, guest posts, sponsored posts, advertising and affiliate links. Travel bloggers may also undertake offline work related to their blog such as running ‘how to blog’ courses or completing speaking engagements. Many travel bloggers may also undertake gig work, typically in the form of freelance writing or copyrighting tasks, in order to supplement the income they make from blogging (Azariah 2016a).

Picture from canvas

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle: A Growing Trend?

By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely — an 87% increase from pre-pandemic numbers — according to Upwork’s “Future Workforce Pulse Report.” In fact, managers believe that 26.7% of the workforce will still be fully remote in 2021. Remote job board suggests that, while most remote jobs require people to live in specific geographic areas, work-from-anywhere jobs are cropping up for everyone from developers and designers to customer support professionals and marketing managers.

What do all these digital nomads have in common? They seek an independent lifestyle replete with adventure and reliable Wi-Fi access. For them, traveling is not vacationing; rather, traveling is a lifestyle.

Take, for example, the story of Diego Bejarano Gerke, cofounder of Wifi Tribe, a community of more than 800 members from 60-plus countries who live and work together around the world. Like many digital nomads, Gerke wanted to travel with like-minded people without forgoing his career.

Are there any challenges to digital nomads life?

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As a digital nomad, one of the most crucial things to ensure is that you have the proper paperwork and you are aware of your legal responsibilities. This is one of the most important things when you decide to live and work on the road, if not so, you might face some major difficulties. Combined with employment and residence, it all creates stressful and often unknown challenges for newbie digital nomads. When you are always on the road, you’re either focused on your work managing to meet all the deadlines, or you are making sure you have enough projects to work on, in order to survive financially. For digital nomads, sometimes it feels guilty to take time off and just relax to explore the country they are traveling in. Another big challenge for digital nomads is that when it comes to finding a work-life balance, they frequently find themselves torn between doing too much or not doing enough for their projects. It is obvious that at some point digital nomads will need some help to deal with the issues they face on the road. Problems might include diseases, accommodation issues, malfunctioning hardware, financial difficulties, mental health and even loneliness.  Freelancing abroad may look glamorous, but it may stress you seriously if you do not have a supportive network of family and friends to lean on. Digital nomads are fully dependent on technology. For this reason, they need perfectly functioning smartphones, chargers, laptops and etc. Wherever they go, they’ll either need to bring all this hardware with them or leave it somewhere really secure and safe. And at last, digital nomads need to purchase their own medical insurance plans, which can cost up to $80 per month. However, if you want to stay in a certain location for a lengthy period of time, in this case, it is usually cheaper to acquire a medical insurance plan.

Are there any Digital Nomad Communities?

While remote professionals are free to travel solo, many choose to plug themselves into local communities and hostels. However, constantly introducing yourself can burn out even the most extroverted travelers. Wifi Tribe is a consistent community where curious, open-minded professionals can seek adventure without sacrificing social stability. Moreover, Wifi Tribe gives these travelers the chance to explore places that don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to support digital nomads or where there aren’t already many like-minded professionals.

“A lot of people start with interest in Bali; Medellin, Colombia; or Playa del Carmen, Mexico,” he said. “But, as soon as people have been traveling like this for a while, they start looking at Oman or Japan — the kinds of places that aren’t typically on that digital nomad road.”

In 2018 there were around 5 million Americans that identified as a digital nomad. That number has now doubled to over 10.9 million digital nomads in the US alone, resulting in an increase of 50% in just those two years. 

Millennials are a great example of aspiring digital nomads, as remote working becomes more utilized by companies. Because of this, HR managers may now need to adapt their Employee Value Proposals to fit the life-style of a future digital nomad, and offer more benefits to achieve work-life balance and ensure talent retention.

What are the some of the ways countries can attract digital nomads?

  • Provide a temporary worker visa
  • Create more affordable housing amongst local communities
  • Supply high speed internet throughout the country
  • Have good public transportation.
  • Availability of suitable amenities
  • Friendly communities
  • Arranging various weekly events

The future of the travel industry is shifting as digital nomads are growing. Due to this, some changes will be made, the first one being the creation of digital nomad work visas. Some countries have already adopted this similar type of visa, including Antigua, Dominica, and Portugal, allowing digital nomads to work abroad. Hotels will also face a shift from perhaps a simple hotel room to a more apartment style offering, since digital nomads stay for long periods of time. Lastly, round trip flights may have less value as digital nomads do not wish to return from where they came from but continue their journey to a different destination.

Are you open to explore as a digital nomad?

I would open up to explore as a digital nomads as it brings more freedom to exploring new opportunities while exploring new countries, experiencing new culture and meeting unique people round the world. Being free to travel and work when and where you want is dream come true moment. The finest aspects of being a digital nomad vary from person to person, but this nomadic lifestyle has numerous advantages and benefits that can improve people’s lives, personal growth, financial security, and general pleasure. More people are discovering new ways to live and work as the world of remote employment expands. One of these is digital nomad lifestyle, which involves working remotely and living in various locations around the globe.


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Mouratidis, G., 2018. Digital nomads: travel, remote work and alternative lifestyles.






How can AR (Augmented Reality) be used to improve the customer experiences in Spas?

The tourism industry is changing significantly as information technology is becoming more and more part of it. Information technology has a critical influence on making tourism businesses more competitive, as it provides the tools that a tourism business needs to improve their marketing and management (Buhalis, O´Connor, 2005.). Information technology has changed the way tourism businesses work as it has improved the efficiency of tourism organizations, the marketplace and how the consumers interact with the organizations (Buhalis, Law, 2008).  

What is Augmented Reality?  

Augmented Reality (AR) is an enhanced version of the real world that is achieved using digital visual elements, sounds and other sensory stimuli delivered by technology (Hayes, 2022). It was invented by researcher Tom Caudell from Boeing in 1990 (Mekni, Lemieux, 2014). Carmignini and Fuhrt (2011, p. 3) define AR as a “real-time direct or indirect view of physical real-world environment that has been augmented by adding virtual computer-generated information”. According to Azuma (1997)  AR enables users to see the real world, with virtual objects composited with the real world. AR is currently used in many different technology fields, such as medicine, education, and simulated training (Kounavis, Kasimati, 2012).  

As AR seems to enhance the customer experience in a unique way, it also brings some concerns and suspicions with it. AR has been seen to have some negative psychological effects for its users, since it can be addictive and even seen to cause violence. People who play violent games through AR can have behavioral issues and distorted images of violence in real-life. In addition to the psychological effects, AR is also expensive. Because of this, not all companies are capable of investing in this kind of technology and only large organizations have the upper hand (Acharya, 2021.).  

Augmented Reality in the Tourism Industry  

AR is used in the tourism industry to improve the customer experience. AR can enhance the tourists to access valuable information and improve their knowledge on the tourist attraction or destination, while making the customer experience more memorable. AR provides more personal and tailored content for the users to experience while traveling (Kounavis, Kasimati, 2012.). The increase in these technologies has changed the tourist and travel behavior by reforming the way tourists search for information, make decisions, buy products and services and explore reviews (Granmer, Dieck, Fountoulaki, 2020). 

AR provides endless possibilities and activities for tourists. It enables visitors to get information about the place, its monuments, buildings, museums, among other options through technology (Romero, 2022). AR can be used through smartphones easily. You just download an app to your smartphone, and you are set to experience the augmented reality through your camera. With AR tourists can visualize virtual elements on top of the real elements, moving to mixed reality (Romero, 2022.). Even though AR is digital information added to the real- world environment, it can also arouse different senses like sound, smell, taste, and touch (Loijens, Brohm, Domurath, 2017).  

AR has also benefits for the companies using it. AR has been proven to enhance the customer experience, and it creates business benefits such as secure additional source of revenue and decreases in seasonality (Granmerk, Dieck, Fountoulaki, 2020). The main potential in AR according to Granmer, Dieck and Fountoulaki (2020) is seen in the pre-booking, information gathering and on-site experience.  

How is AR utilized in different tourism businesses  

As I have noted, AR is an important tool in the tourism industry. It enables tourists to experience a destination in a completely new way. The application of AR can maximize the experience and level of entertainment a tourist experiences. It also maximizes the information and knowledge a tourist can get from a destination (Cranmer, Dieck, Fountoulaki, 2022.). According to Faizan (2022) previous studies done about AR is mostly focused on the technology and adaptation itself, rather than focusing on the way it enhances the customer experience. As a matter of fact, that is something I wanted to focus on in this post, as AR is a new technology used in the tourism industry and I believe it has great potential.  

Now, to talk about the utilization of AR in tourism businesses. AR is not commonly used in the spa and wellness concept, but it has been used in different tourism fields, such as museums and restaurants. Different museums use AR as part of their experience. Museums use AR to give more information about the pieces they are examining with the help of AR. In June 2021, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle located in Paris, created an AR experience for their customers. This experience lets visitors to come face-to-face with animals that are extinct in the real-world. Also, In the National Museum of Singapore has been presented an exhibition that provides historical drawings in 3D that customers can interact with. The visitors only download an app and use their own smartphone to explore the 3D- drawings (Coates, 2022.). 

In restaurants AR is also used to enhance the customer experience. For example, with the help of AR restaurants can make virtual menus for customers. AR enables the menu to come to life when scanned with a smartphone. A Mexican restaurant group Wahaca was the first company to use AR menus in their services. Wahaca replaced their paper menus to virtual menus that can be opened with a QR- Code what triggers an AR experience. AR can also be used without a smartphone. La Petite Chef– is an experience that has entertained visitors worldwide. The experience uses a thumb-sized chef that prepares food through 3D projection mapping. You can watch the tiny virtual chef make food for you (Ferrandez, 2021.). 

Technology human touch background, modern remake of The Creation of Adam

As can be seen, AR seems to enhance the customer experience in different tourism companies. It makes me wonder why it is not used in the spa and wellness businesses? I believe that it has great potential, that should be utilized in spas also. For example, in the future a spa experience could be held in a completely blank room, where customers could open a view/environment they desire through AR. If a customer wishes to be in a forestry environment, they can open the forest in front of them with the help of AR and at the same time enjoy the relaxing spa experience. This would arouse customers’ different senses and enable them to experience relaxation on a completely new level. This same technology is used in the other fields, so why not utilize it in spas also. 

According to Spa Executive (2021), Vilmorin (2022) and Nelson (2022) technology will be a significant factor in the future of spa development. Technology will continue to change the way customers experience and view spa services. Dauverne (2018) argues that augmented reality could reduce the need to travel abroad, and this way reduce individuals carbon footprint. In 10 years’ time, the spa experience will be very different to what it is today, and technology will be one of the main factors paving the way for change and I am here for it.  


Achayra, A. 2021. Pros and cons of augmented reality.

Andersen, C. 2022. What is the difference between AR and VR?

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Coates, C. 2022. How Museums are using Augmented Reality.

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Vilmorin, L. 2022. Top 10 global spa trends for 2022 designed to heal mind, body and soul.


Can we promote sustainable management in tourism field with the help of technology?

Sustainability is a trend that has been arising over the years. It is almost already overused term but especially when talking about traveling sustainability is a thing to consider in multiple perspectives. Another trend that has been arising in tourism field is information technology. People use it for almost everything, for example when buying travel related products or services, checking the weather forecasts of the destination or when wanted to be advised in some cases¹. Information technology and tourism are two very dynamic and growing industries in the world ³. Tourism in 2021 accounted 5,5% of global Gross Domestic Product and 272 million jobs in 2019⁵. These positive numbers also bring the aspect of necessity of responsibility for the stakeholders.

Sustainability is a wide term, and it is usually divided into social, environmental, and economic, which all cover a lot of different subcategories. The question of this blog post is how could information technology help to make tourism businesses work even more sustainable?

Dimensions of sustainability

In the past sustainability was seen as an image booster for a company if they utilised the term in their marketing plan. Nowadays it is a crucial part of both internal and external impacts of the company. The environmental aspect is usually the first one to come up when discussing the matter, and it is also the perspective of which majority of research papers have been conducted (10). However, sustainability can be divided into three sections and utilised from the stakeholders’ perspective:

  • Social sustainability can mean for example job opportunities, health and safety, training and learning or interaction with the local community⁴.
  • Environmental sustainability may include for example waste minimization and recycling, pollution prevention by reducing emissions or choosing sustainable transportation options (9).
  • Economical sustainability can mean that the company is making profit and staying lucrative.

It is suggested that economic and environmental aspects of an organisation are at the end driven by social elements like equality, health, and education⁴.

Technology in the help of management tourism services

Technology can for example provide innovative information system processes, creative ways of structuring and qualifying the offer and managing payment systems in the tourism sector7. Thus, it can ease the workload of the stakeholders at some duties so that they can focus on other aspects instead.

IT can help to build closer relationships with suppliers and customers² . IT can also help to gain competitive advantage by lowering costs or improving customers’ satisfaction and offering them differentiating products or services² . The destinations and businesses are much harder to be found by the potential customer if they are not utilising technology, for example search engine marketing. That makes businesses basically increasingly dependent on IT if they prefer being sustainable also economically.

IT enable travellers to access reliable and accurate information as well as to undertake reservations basically anywhere and anytime. IT has improved the service quality and contributed to higher customer satisfaction² . Technology can help gathering data about the tourists for the destination (8). That can help the stakeholders prevent potential negative effects beforehand.

IT, tourism, and sustainability

Social media can enhance the tourist-tourist relationship which can increase social capital through reciprocity and cooperation⁸. This kind of real time interaction enables them to share value and knowledge before, during and after their travels.

Technology can influence positively but it is dependent on the people using it and their knowledge and intentions⁴. Managerial capabilities are on a key role for succeeding. The professionals in the tourism field are the key point but at the same time average tourism-related degrees are among the lowest (4). The study has shown that the gender of the employee might have an influence. Being a woman has a positive impact on the ability to use of technology to achieve sustainability. In a higher level of managerial capabilities, the gender didn’t have an effect anymore. ⁴

It is believed that future tourism depends on matching sustainability and resilience successfully. HAV, referring to hyperplace augmented reality, has been seen as a creative formula enhancing the sustainability of cultural tourism using technology.⁶ Also, blockchain, as an information technology, is capable of supporting to improve sustainability in tourism field (11).

Making sustainable choices, like investing in automated lights in the hotel rooms, can have cost saving impact for the tourist companies in the long run9. Communicating about them transparently can also be a sales appeal in the perspective of many tourists. The information the stakeholders share in digital media can help recipients to promote their social and environmental behaviours9. In other words, the message companies share in their social media or marketing distributions has an effect. Being and staying sustainable might need creation and innovation from the companies sometimes. Only those who can manage with these matters are able to survive in competition².


  1. Gössling, S. 2017. Tourism, information technologies and sustainability: an exploratory review.
  2. Buhalis, D. 1998. Strategic use of information technologies in the tourism industry.
  3. Liburd, J. 2005. Sustainable tourism and innovation in mobile tourism services.
  4. Broto, O., Puig-Denia, A. & Lapiedra R. 2021. How to Enhance Sustainability through Technology Usage: An Analysis of Managerial Capabilities and Gender in the Tourism Sector.
  5. World Travel & Tourism Council 2021.
  6. Marques da Silva, A. 2021. In Quest of a New AR Technology Application to Enhance the Sustainability of Cultural Tourism: The Olive Heritage in Madeira Through the Looking Glass of a ‘Sandbox’ Approach.
  7. Cantino, V., Giacosa, E., Alfiero, S., Riad Shams, S. M. & Ferraris, A. 2019. Introduction: Smart Tourism Business (Sustainability, measurability, awareness, recognition & technology).
  8. Dongwook, K. & Sungbum, K. 2017. The Role of Mobile Technology in Tourism: Patents, Articles, New, and Mobile Tour App Reviews.
  9. Camilleri, M. 2017. The Promotion of Responsible Tourism Management Through Digital Media.
  10. Tölkes, C. 2018. Sustainability communication in tourism – A literature review.
    11. Erol, I., Neuhofer, I., Dogru, T., Oztel, A., Searcy, C. & Yorulmaz, A. Improving sustainability in the tourism industry through blockchain technology: Challenges and opportunities.

Research: The impact of sustainability communication on tourists’ willingness to pay for a cottage holiday

The goal of this research was to examine how communicating different sustainability dimensions affects German tourists’ willingness to pay for a Finnish holiday cottage. Sustainable tourism is traditionally divided into three dimensions: environmental, socio-cultural and economic.

Finnish holiday cottage in the forest
Photo: Author

This research also was aiming to find out whether socio-demographic factors have an impact on the formation of willingness to pay. The research was conducted as a quantitative study, and it employs a contingent valuation method to examine German tourists’ willingness to pay for each sustainability dimension.

An online questionnaire was distributed through five different German social media outlets and influencers, whose focus is on traveling to Finland. The data collection took place in June 2022 and resulted in 279 responses, out of which 241 were valid for data analysis.

The respondents were shown four versions of the same cottage, which, by the way, was based on a real-life cottage product. One version was a so-called baseline cottage presenting the basic attributes and the price per night. Each of the three other cottages were representing one dimension of sustainable tourism through their attributes. The environmental cottage featured renewable electricity, thorough recycling opportunities and energy efficient technologies, whereas the socio-culturally sustainable cottage feature local design and traditional activities, and the economically sustainable cottage was emphasizing fair salaries and local sourcing of materials, just to name a few. The respondents were asked to state their willingness to pay for each of the three options. The respondents were also asked about their experiences on traveling to Finland as well as their socio-demographic characteristics.

Pier and a lake
Photo: Author

The results show that environmental sustainability is the only sustainability dimension that has a statistically significant effect on the tourists’ willingness to pay. On average, the respondents were willing to pay 15,1% more for an environmentally sustainable cottage accommodation option compared to a regular option. Employment status was the only socio-demographic factor to have a significant effect on the tourists’ willingness to pay.

The main conclusion is that there are differences in how tourists value different sustainability causes. The results suggest that investing in and actively communicating about environmental sustainability would be a successful business strategy for Finnish cottage businesses targeting German tourists. Future research is still needed to uncover the reasons why environmental sustainability is preferred over other sustainability causes.

Text: Markus Rantsi

Can technology make tourism more transformative ?

Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Transformative tourism (TT) is a type of meaningful and purposeful tourism. Traditional tourism is often used as an escape mechanism from everyday life (5). Transformative tourism is motivated by seeking (10). In transformational tourism the tourist seeks personal growth during their travels, which can take place in areas such as well-being, spirituality and education. The transformative experiences tourists have can be physical, emotional, attitudinal changes as well as the acquisition of context-specific skills (17). These types of tourists are motivated to return home with some personal tools enriched by the experiences of their journey (16) – the purpose of travel instead of escaping reality is about possibly making the reality somehow better or more meaningful. 

Transformative tourism is about change (hopefully) for the better and it can provide meaningful experiences. Because of this, it has gained a lot of attention during recent years; it has the power to change human behaviour and have a positive impact on the world (17). These explanations should be enough to support the idea that this type of tourism should be encouraged and developed further.

What makes designing and developing transformative tourism tricky is that it can be different for every tourist. By enhancing the experiences by deepening them, and making them more immersive, can support the occurrence of unintentional transformative tourism and elements of it. There are three different kinds of experiences that are considered transformative: epistemically transformative experience (having a first time experience), personally transformative experience (changes your point of view, your core preferences or you learn something that expands your mind) and epistemically and personally transformative experience, which is a holistic experience that possibly changes the course of one’s life (15). 

Technology has changed the value creation process in customer service as it has become a key contributor to consumer experience; a big part of the hospitality and tourism products and services are nowadays delivered by different technologies (8). Technologically enhanced tourism is also changing travel behaviour and activities (7). As technology is said to enhance the customer experience (1), could it also be used to develop and enrich tourism to be and to have more transformative elements?  What kinds of solutions are already out there that could be used to make tourism services and experiences possibly more transformative? 

There are two critical digital technology stimuli that can lead to a rich customer experience: personalisation and interactivity (14). Based on my readings, I would also add immersion to the list of stimuli. Immersion is the level that describes a feeling of ‘being there’ (20). These can be considered to be the key factors in any tourist experience maximization and thus important factors to consider when talking about whether technology can make tourism more transformative. 

Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

Smart tourism’s transformative possibilities 

Let’s look into the question through the concept of Smart Tourism, which means technology enhanced tourism. A Smart Travel Destination uses technology based tools in its products, services, spaces and experiences (7). These tools are Smart Tourism Technologies that refer to both general and specific applications that can enhance tourists’ experiences as well as generate added value (25). These applications can be anything from ubiquitous connectivity through Wi-Fi to sensors, smartphones and virtual reality (7; 8). Let’s have a look at how Smart Tourism Technologies (STTs) with the most transformative potential have to offer transformative tourism.


Gamification is the use of game design elements and game thinking in a non-gaming context (6) so it is more of a point of view when using smart technologies and designing transformative tourist experiences. With the help of gamification, tourists can get more engaged with the information and the experience they are receiving. If the tourist engagement rises, it can enhance the tourist experience in terms of flow, motivation, pleasure, immersion, enjoyment and presence (3). An example of using gamification and technology together to create a more transformative tourism experience could be an application that teaches the tourist history in the form of a game on a self-guided city tour. 

Augmented reality 

An augmented reality system merges physical and virtual objects in a natural environment, aligns them, and runs them interactively in real time (22). The goal of augmented reality is to support user interaction with the world around them (2). Augmented reality systems can be wearable computers, such as a smartwatch or smart glasses (26). How smart watches can enhance the tourist experience and possibly make it more transformative is that they extend the tourist’s sensory, cognitive, and motor limitations (2) and adapt the tourists behaviour to the changing environments. A wearable device can shape how tourists orient themselves, interact, and control their interactions with tourism attractions (21). Wearable computers, like any other computer, can also model behaviour and predict the future actions of the tourist so they are said to have potential to transform touristic experiences (21). 

Photo by My name is Yanick on Unsplash

Augmented reality has already been applied to destinations and to tourist experiences to assist tourists with retrieval and processing of information on points of interest at physical structures, national parks, walking experiences, historic and cultural objects, museum exhibits, art galleries, and indoor theme parks by overlaying exhibits with additional information through touch-screen displays, smartphones, and/or wearable devices (21).  With the help of technology assisted immersion, in this case augmented reality, tourists can be engaged in a more unique and interactive way than in traditional tourism (12). Also, if information is presented through augmented reality (or virtual reality), the information can become more memorable (11) and thus possibly more transformative.

As an augmented reality system merges physical and virtual objects in a natural environment to support tourists’ interaction with the world around them there are clear indicators of experience enhancement, which could make the experience more transformative. If we think about the gamification application example (the history teaching, game-like self-guided city tour application), it could also have augmented reality elements to it. These elements could be for example Google glasses type of images and videos of the historical events. Maybe they could even be holograms in the future. Whether or not the information provided to the tourist is transformative by itself, its transformative qualities could be enhanced and supported with augmented reality. 

Virtual reality 

When it comes to virtual reality there are more indicators of possible experience enhancement which could make the experience more transformative than augmented reality; the whole tourist experience can be designed from start to finish to be as transformative as possible. According to NASA virtual reality is “the use of computer technology to create the effect of an interactive three-dimensional world in which the objects have a sense of spatial presence.” In tourism it is used to capture destinations, attractions, to re-create events or to create totally new destinations, events and experiences (24). Virtual reality experiences have three key elements: visualisation components, immersion into the experience is a key factor and interactivity is involved in the experience (4). In the future these can most likely be personalised which means that there will be technically everything (personalisation, interactive and immersion) needed for a tourist to have an experience – whether or not that experience can be transformative depends on the tourist. 

Other Smart Tourism Technology possibilities

If we look at Smart tourism from a less futuristic and a more practical lens, STT is already capable of making experiences and customer touchpoints more interactive and personalised according to tourists’ preferences (13,11). With the help of STTs almost everything can be personalized and tourists can be provided with the most relevant and context-specific information, expertise, and experiences delivered in real-time or just when they need it (14). To have more personalized services and experiences can support transformative experiences happening, because each tourists’ experience and transformativity is highly objective. 

Tourism products can also be tailored to be more interactive with the help of STT (11). Interactivity gives buyers a sense of control so they can feel like they are in control of their own experience (27) – this can support the possible transformativity. At the same time, tourists can also interact with local residents within destination business ecosystems and the larger tourism ecosystems (7). This can support transformation as socialising with people from different cultures or just people outside your own circle of people can teach you something or show you a new point of view. Also, the use of STTs might affect the engagement and immersion of tourist experience (11). 

Smarter the more transformative?

Even though smart technologies are slowly getting more popular to use in tourist experiences and at smart tourism destinations, research on smart tourism destinations is limited. Research about gamification in tourism is also limited and the application of gamification in tourism is still in its infancy (8). There’s also no clear definition of what a consumer technology experience is or what a technology experience is. Because of the lack of research, the impacts of consumers’ technology experience on their overall experience  remain unknown (11). Needless to say, this means that there are also no studies about whether technology can make tourism more transformative so we have no way to answer whether or not technology can actually make tourism more transformative.

Regardless of the lack of research,  the introduction of guest-facing technologies is changing one of the industry’s key characteristics, human-to-human interactions, into guest-technology interactions. Tourists are already interacting with artificial intelligence chatbots, service delivery robots (11), and mobile tour guide apps have partly replaced the traditional human travel guide and information desk. Travellers are also creating their own travel itineraries with the help of the internet. Social contacts and socialising with new cultures is a big part of travel; a cross-cultural interaction can already be a transformative experience. Is there a possibility that technology could be making tourism less transformative? Technology is also making travelling a lot more convenient and easy. Yet somehow it seems that the reward of seeing the sunrise is much more transformative if you have climbed a mountain to witness it.

Also, a big part of the tourist experience is about immersion. Technology can of course help with immersion, but it can also hinder it. The term selective unplugging refers to being partially connected or disconnected from technology during travel to be more connected and present in the moment (19). To be more connected and present is essential for transformative travel, but what if connection and the feeling of being present are provided with the help of technology? Maybe then the tourist has chosen the wrong destination to travel to, but it’s an important topic to think about when designing and promoting technology-mediated travel experiences. Also when thinking about transformative travel, the tourists who decide to unplug are most likely tourists that are escaping their reality. They are not seeking something, which means that most of them are not transformative tourists. Still, the possible avoidance of technology makes it challenging to create transformative elements to tourist destinations and experiences with smart tourism, if people are not motivated to use technology during their trip.

Even though technology is changing the way we travel, its power and possibilities are yet to be harnessed when it comes to transformative tourism. Smart tourism in tourist experiences and in tourism in general is often in a supporting role; most smart technologies tourists use are STTs like maps/navigation apps, ride-sharing programs, city guide apps, mobile payment, and parking apps (14). Yet we can see that technology, especially augmented reality and virtual reality, has great potential to make tourism experiences more transformative in the future. Still, what is transformative to the tourist will always depend on the tourist itself – meeting a local in a travel  destination can be a far more transformative experience to the tourist than an augmented reality city tour. The city tour can just be a memorable and unforgettable experience at a smart tourism destination, which doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all.



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What causes people to buy from OTAs?

Today millions of travelers around the globe use Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) to plan their leisure and business travel. OTAs are getting popular among travelers even though there are still people who prefer travel agents expertise instead. Although, OTAs evolved their introduction in the 1990s, the corona pandemic provided new and exciting opportunities for them to attract more users and increase revenue. Due to the pandemic, people barely visit travel agents expertise and choose online service for information and booking. According to Statista, the global online travel market is expected to reach $833.52 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 10%.

What’s OTAs?

An online travel agency (OTAs) is a web-based marketplace that allows consumers to research and book travel products and services, including hotels, flights, cars, tours, cruises, activities and more, directly with travel suppliers (Expedia group). Expedia, Orbitz, Airbnb,, tripadvisor, Travelcity, Hopper, and Priceline are some familiar OTAs.

So the question arises, what influence these travelers to purchase from OTAs?

Below we will discuss about five influencing factors with supporting reviewed scientific publications.


People are certain about getting good value and benefits with the purchase from OTAs. A result imply that quality of benefits, monetary, social status, preference, and information values predict purchase intention toward OTAs, with the chief driver being the quality-of-benefits value, followed by the preference value.1

Payment and refund policies are also important drivers for OTAs. Results from a study show that refund rate has great effect on the customer’s payment decision, while transaction cost has great influence on the hotel’s operational decision.2 When the refund rate is greater than a threshold, the customer prefers online payment.

Additionally, sentiments plays vital role to understand customer buying intention and brand attitudes.3 The qualitative aspects of OTAs can help service-providers understand customers’ brand-attitudes by focusing on the important aspects rather than reading the entire review, which will save both their time and effort.


Social currency have become an essential factor in motivating the customers to co-creation content related to products and services (Zinnbauer & Honer 2011). Social currency, attitude and subjective norms influence customer experience concerning online travel agencies.4


Further, the quality of content on OTAs portal aids as drivers influencing booking intention among travelers. The study explored localization, website quality, product information, perceived interactivity, price and promotion, e-security, customer value, service quality, electronic word of mouth (eWOM), marketing and brand promotion amongst the identified determinants to define the relative dependence and driver powers.5 Another study supported this by showing the positive impact on electronic loyalty from the quality of services, website quality, infrastructure and electronic purchase.6 Research which carried out a questionnaire survey on Chinese tourists visiting Korea with experience of using the online travel agency web also favor that in the e-service quality, convenience, interactivity, information validity, credibility had a positive impacts on perceived value and satisfaction.7

Increasing levels of competition are faced by OTAs thus, experience an ever greater need to evaluate the effectiveness of their Web sites. The study was conducted to examine the influence of perceived Web site quality on willingness to use online travel agencies. Ease of Use was found to be the most important dimension in determining Willingness to Use, followed by Information/Content, Responsiveness, Fulfillment, and Security/Privacy.8


The result of research conducted to analyze factors that influence e-Loyalty of customers indicates that customer e-Loyalty is predisposed by e-Service Quality through e-Perceived Value and e-Trust. Hence OTAs popularity depends on innovation, convenience it offers as well as how trustworthy it is.9

Sentiments and duration of trip:

Does length of stay, demographic and socio – economic characteristics impact on purchasing behavior of OTAs. It was founded that short-duration travelers were more intended to use online travel agencies, where Long-duration travelers preferred their traditional travel agencies.10

From my point of view, online travel agency is growing popularity not only in developed countries but also in developing countries travel industry. Online travel agencies have rather advantage of reaching out to the larger audience. Fast processing of information and transaction is crucial aspects of OTAs for its popularity. The quality of portal, details about the product and service are another important factors affecting OTAs success. Users also gets best price from OTAs, easy payment and refund policy which aids on its utilizations.

Looking into future if vulnerability in booking system (altering or cancelling service) is improved to ensure trustworthiness, OTAs future is very bright.


1ShaliniTalwar, AmandeepDhir, PuneetKaur, Matti Mäntymäki (2020) why do people purchase from online travel agencies (OTAs)? A consumption values perspective, International Journal of Hospitality Management 88:102534

2Guang-XinGao, Jian-WuBi (2021) Hotel booking through online travel agency: Optimal Stackelberg strategies under customer-centric payment service, Annals of Tourism Research 86(2):103074

3ArghyaRay, Pradip KumarBala, Nripendra P.Rana (2021) Exploring the drivers of customers’ brand attitudes of online travel agency services: A text-mining based approach, Journal of Business Research 128(2):391-404

4AnuragSingh, Nripendra P Rana,  Satyanarayana Parayitam (2022) International Journal of Information Management Data Insights, Volume 2, Issue 2, 100114

5MahakSharma, RoseAntony, Rajat Sehrawat, Angel Contreras Cruz, Tugrul U. Daim (2022) Exploring post-adoption behaviors of e-service users: Evidence from the hospitality sector /online travel services Technology in Society, Volume 68, 101781

6S. H. Jafarpour, A. Mahmoudabadi and A. Andalib, “The impact of quality of service, website, shopping experience and infrastructure on online customers’ loyalty,” 2017 3th International Conference on Web Research (ICWR), 2017, pp. 163-168, doi: 10.1109/ICWR.2017.7959322.

7G. G. Ronsana, M. R. Shihab, B. H. Syahbuddin and W. R. Fitriani, “Factors Influencing Customer’s E-Loyalty in Tourism E-Marketplace,” 2018 International Conference on Information Technology Systems and Innovation (ICITSI), 2018, pp. 237-241, doi: 10.1109/ICITSI.2018.8696021.

8Young A. Park PhD, Ulrike Gretzel & Ercan Sirakaya-Turk (2007) Measuring Web Site Quality for Online Travel Agencies, Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 23:1, 15-30, DOI: 10.1300/J073v23n01_02

9Niu LX, Lee JH. The Intention of Repurchase on e-Service Quality by Online Travel Agency Site. The Journal of Industrial Distribution & Business [Internet]. 2018 Jul 30; 9(7):61–70

10Sujay Vikram Singh, Rajeev Ranjan, “ONLINE TRAVEL PORTAL AND THEIR EFFECT ON TRAVEL AGENCY: A STUDY ON OUTBOUND VISITORS OF VARANASI.”, IJRAR – International Journal of Research and Analytical Reviews (IJRAR), E-ISSN 2348-1269, P- ISSN 2349-5138, Volume.6


Does AI in tourism have unlimited possibilities?

Does AI in tourism have unlimited possibilities?

Are all possibilities positive? Will there be a new level of crime, automation and robots displace workers and ICT has stifled human interaction?

Are we ending up in a circle of choises or does this lead us to pilgrimage unknown paths? Have hardcore tourist ended up to be unsung hero of software tourism?


During era of 21st century Artificial Intelligence has made dramatic changes. Tourism has been one of fastest growing industries. Between 2005 to 2015 it has made global change of international tourists from 528 million to 1.19 billion visitors. Most of this increase is studied to be result of digital marketing and would exceed 800 million crosses by the year of 2020. Some studies have been made with some major operators like Google Travel or Trip Advisor and was found out that 85% of the customer used AI serviced during reservation process.¹ Compass to navigate through all these options needs lot of effort, when you have too much to choose from and endless options, I wonder will it start to be harder to makes actual decision.


Internet of Things IoT is in key role of all these possibilities that include electronic shopping guides, self-guided tours, electronic navigation, fast data processing combined secure online payment systems giving tourists endless possibilities to plan and execute travels from anywhere and anytime. With all the information available, tourism management sector can provide all the useful data all the way to destinations and local governments, so things are made efficiently.² Here we come to the question how efficiently and effortless should it be or is the actual tour guide still giving extra value to that moment, not to forget if something happens, there is always some one to help or at least knowing where to get help.



Main role and the star of the show is of course tourists. It has been welcoming sight from both sides of the parties, the service providers and tourism marketing travelers. This leads to better understanding of customer need, by providing more simpler and quicker tourism production, change to conquers wider market and option for destinations to grow independently when they are no longer under the mercy of tour operators. Web marketing is the most cost-effective way to gain access to the customers and provide multiple options for theirs to choose.³


Lord of the holidays sounds like I have American black master card to rule them all and yes, money do make things possible, and it works vice versa.


Time of Covid-19 world was basically lock down. Tourism and hospitality were a business that took the biggest hit of all, including flight operators and everything else. Drop in sales was 51% and total of 2.86 trillion U.S dollars. People had more time and they started to use more social media platforms for information, including travel-based apps for more need of more open information from real people, not from google and basic tv news. Many tourists were hold in their hotels as quarantine stations. This gathered data will help tourism businesses to prepare in case of next major happening, but also it has taught improvision and forcing them to find new solutions to keep business alive.⁴ With sustainability in mind digitalization offers chance to overcome the markets for enterprises that had lots of restrictions. Government still has vital role of supporting XR based solutions. ⁶

Fantasy, Virtual Reality, Vr, Vr Glasses

During Covid-19 tourism came to halt and gave time to different destinations to think how to proceed. People from Amsterdam voted that they would rather focus on quality tourism instead of mass tourism. This though will affect to similar cities which most of the money revenue comes from tourists. Over tourism of course will create needs of accommodation and restaurants etc. but also unwanted social acts start to happen like assaults, robberies, money laundry and drug trafficking. ICT gives destinations and smart cities better awareness of present tourism situation at the location so number of police officers can be temporarily increased. ⁹


One example, study shows that ICT has leverage to promote agricultural and rural tourism since ICT plays big role in agribusiness and local development. That way farmers can promote their services directly without travel agencies, giving them better profit and control of tourism markets. By time of writing research were most other tourism genres using lot of ICT in their promotion but those small operators at cultural field having lack of money and expertise to use these methods. Taking e-tourism to part of rural tourism enables preserving and balancing to be achievable equation between these two. ⁷


Internet began the era when it was key to access to information and it did not happen more than some years ago around 2010 when it changed to be necessity to engage for people. It has been said that if you are not online, you do not exist and for businesses it is true. Measured by citations at tourism studies, digitalization is the largest field and increasing year by year. When these studies are taken to the practice ICT and AI enables to observe customers pre order, on the time and postal ways to make decisions. ⁸


We must remember if it is too good to be true, usually it is not true. This also the case of AI too. All these positive things mentioned before in this blog are followed by some critical things to keep in mind. Research done by TripAdvisor shows results of job loss, security issues, privacy concerns and loss of human contact, that might be side effect of technology where AI is involved. AI is in, even huge leaps that has been done in early stage now and it takes several years if not more to solve these unwanted little side effects. ¹⁰

Looking the future scenarios from the customer’s perspective, AI will allow them to prepare their travels more faster, with significantly lower transaction costs and a fully personalized package that suits their needs and interests. They will receive predictive offers that fit their requirements. During the trip, technologies will help tourists to navigate unknown environments seamlessly, reducing the anxiety and fear of the unknown. Language and cultural differences will not be barriers to tourism, but an additional attraction instead. 11
There is almost a vortex in tourism industry how it will operate in the future and most likely we see much more human-AI robots interaction. This may come in form of service consepts or hospitality. Not even AI aircrafts to transfer commercial tourist is not far in the future.

Depending on the purpose of the travel, to destination, it varies how much human based services you encounter, wanted or not. Even remote places it is useful to know nearest hospital and grouser store, little about up coming weather and know a person to ask help from. Still help of ICT companies that use it, can overtake through multiple tasks like online booking and free their staff to serve you better. ⁵ So, I think AI is here to stay and provide many yet unknown possibilities to tourism.  “To bot or not to bot” Would maybe Shakespeare ask in a play today.





  1. Samala, N., Katkam, B.S., Bellamkonda, R.S. and Rodriguez, R.V. (2022), “Impact of AI and robotics in the tourism sector: a critical insight”, Journal of Tourism Futures, Vol. 8 No. 1, 73-87.


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  1. Nikoli, G., & Lazakidou Α. (2019). The Impact of Information and Communication Technology on the Tourism Sector. Almatourism – Journal of Tourism, Culture and Territorial Development, 10(19), 45–68.


  1. Abbas J, Hassan S, Mubeen R, Zhenhuan L, Wang D (2022) Tourists’ Health Risk Threats Amid COVID-19 Era: Role of Technology Innovation, Transformation, and Recovery Implications for Sustainable Tourism


  1. Bethapudi A (2013 )The role of ICT in tourism industry National Institute of Tourism & Hospitality Management, Telecom Nagar, Gachibowli, Hyderabad, A.P., India JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECONOMICS AND BUSINESS, VOL.1, ISSUE 4 – DECEMBER, PP. 67-79
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7. Shanker D (2008) ICT and Tourism: Challenges and Opportunities, Conference on Tourism in India – Challenges Ahead, 15-17

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    1. Grunder L, Neuhofer B (2020) The bright and dark sides of artificial
      intelligence: A futures perspective on tourist destination experiences Journal of destination marketing & management 18 November 2020, 3-4
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Why should Smart Tourism Destinations invest in IoT solutions – or should they?

In recent years, the tourism industry has embraced the idea of Smart Tourism Destinations, emerging from the concept of Smart Cities. In both, the beating heart is the marketing word ‘smart’, representing all things that can be embedded or enhanced by technology¹. In fact, technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), and their application to complex logistic problems within cities, originally triggered the concept of ‘smart’ to arise².

IoT particularly has been stated as the next big thing and put at the vanguard of digitalization over the last decade. Somehow, however, this technology still hasn’t hit the great breakthrough in tourism. Why is it so, as it has such a strong correlation with smart destination development? What is holding the tourism destinations back from investing in IoT solutions big time? 

Ok wait – a short recap on IoT, please

IoT is a paradigm that involves the presence of a variety of connectable devices such as gadgets, sensors, machines, actuators, and other objects that become interconnected to each other and to higher-level systems and protocols (e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS), producing automatically-collected data to create services and applications adapted to users’ needs ⁴ ⁵. Sounds complex but is more straightforward in practice. For instance, IoT technology can help making your home smart by enabling you to adjust your lighting, washing machine and other connected devices at your house through one mobile application. In a smart tourism destination, it can denote monitoring the mobility of tourists or tracking visit times in each attraction by turning the presence of nearby devices into statistical data – all in order to gain actionable insights for destination development and for tourism businesses benefit.

Development gaps of IoT

The use of aggregated data, which is integrated into a single decisional platform, has been said to make the IoT concept the key technological solution for the development of smart urban environments⁵. Furthermore, IoT’s capabilities to collect data and transfer it over a network, based on defined algorithms, all without the need for human intervention in the process, have been praised⁶.

If it only was that easy.

Indeed, the economic value of IoT platforms originates from their ability to connect a mass of diverse sensing and actuating devices, yet each solution has different restrictions and capabilities. The gap in the IoT platforms is caused by the lack of communication standards and communication protocols⁴. Jérémy Robert et al. translate the whole IoT abbreviation into “Intranets of Things”. They refer to vertical silos, which cannot easily and efficiently interact with each other⁷. We simply don’t speak the same language – not us nor the IoT systems. 

In the context of DMOs (Destination Management Organizations) and their adoption of IoT, running one IoT project is already demanding, not to mention if the collected data should also be harmonized with other data sources. Additionally, there are different IoT solutions available for different purposes: one efficiently tracks the number of visitors while the other intelligently models the mode of transportation. This means you would need multiple IoT solutions to be able to cohesively understand your visitors’ behavior. Moreover, the tourism industry retains such a diverse variety of other kinds of data. Combining all this into a single decisional platform seems practically impossible.

Impediments for DMOs

In reality, IoT still needs quite a lot of human touch. What’s more, IoT solutions most often produce massive, dynamic, varied, detailed and inter-related big data². Big data solely on its own is like the ocean: it’s unbearable and infinite if you don’t know how to navigate with it. Somehow it seems that especially the DMOs tend to be lost at this sea. 

Kim Boes, Dimitrios Buhalis and Alessandro Inversini studied the core components of smartness in tourism destination development⁸. By running an in-depth case study analysis on forefront smart destinations, including also IoT projects in their analyzed data set, they found out that along with the distinct presence of technology, there are four additional components of soft smartness: social capital, human capital, innovation and leadership. Technology on its own is insufficient to introduce smartness. Correspondingly, IoT technology can automate the collection of desired data, but someone still needs to plan it, implement it, analyze it and turn it into actions. So what is holding the DMOs back?

Scarcity of suitably qualified staff

This leads us to a burning question of human resources. Being able to sort, analyze and visualize big data consists of a diverse set of skills and knowledge, and DMOs rarely have such resources in-house⁹. If the tourism industry’s future is set to be built on big data, practically all of us who work in destination management would need to be some sort of data gurus. We can of course acquire external services, but we must also look in the mirror: do we have the right skills and knowledge or are we still living in the previous era with our skillset?  

Culture of experimentation

Another impediment is agility. Deploying IoT solutions is ideal for agile experiments in smart tourism destinations but are DMOs agile enough as organizations to run them? It’s also a skill to adopt new technologies and these technologies evolve fast. In other words, by the time a DMO makes the decision to acquire an IoT solution, after a thorough investigation and procurement process, the exact technology might already be outdated. Therefore, we should focus on building a culture of using the Internet of Things¹⁰.


Concerns are raised about the length of time required to implement IoT solutions and their economic viability⁴. These are not necessarily long-term investments, but still, the experiments should be long enough in order to be able to point out regular and irregular fluctuation in the collected data and draw conclusions out of it. And they cost money. Moreover, IoT is developing technology and unexpected costs can occur during the process of deployment. For DMOs, these are red flags.

Dependency on others

Smart tourism destinations are dependent on smart city infrastructure. DMOs cannot assemble IoT infrastructure alone. Such things require collaboration and collaboration within the smart city requires finding mutual goals and interests. However, the tourism industry might have niche requirements. Moreover, IoT integration should follow a certain vision and idea¹⁰ and the architecture needs to be designed in line with the requirements of the destination⁵.  It might be challenging for a DMO to drive the change for tourism purposes.

IoT in overtourism management

Despite the obvious challenges, some destinations did still succeed with IoT. In Ávila, Spain, IoT technology was successfully deployed in overtourism management as a part of a wider visitor-flow monitoring system¹¹: An IoT based pedestrian monitoring system was installed in the historic centre of Ávila. Together with urban 3D modelling Mikel Zubiaga, Jose Luis Izkara,  Alessandra Gandini, Itziar Alonso and Unai Saralegui were able to calculate occupancy patterns and through this create a dynamic occupancy monitoring system. Smart tourism management applications were introduced both for tourists and city managers. These applications were designed to tackle the imbalance of overcrowding in one place and emptiness in another.

Eventually, the research findings resulted in the creation of a sustainable management strategy for the Ávila historic centre. Moreover, the deployed system has proven its value in assuring long-term social, environmental, and economic sustainability of tourism activities, securing the heritage conservation of the historic center. Outcomes like these are immeasurably valuable, especially when it comes to tackling sustainability issues such as overtourism.

IoT might still be an effort worth taking.

It’s a risky business?

The dangers related to data risks and confidentiality issues have been recited as the main disadvantages of IoT¹⁰ . Data risks include security, protection, quality, accurate analysis and compatibility, whereas confidentiality issues emerge from legal issues and, as already mentioned earlier, the lack of standards, protocols and interoperability.

These disadvantages seem to be the major roadblock for DMO adoption of IoT. Echoing from the disadvantages, reputation risks possess probably the greatest impediment for tourism destinations. Is it ethical to follow the behavior of tourists, even if only statistically? No tourism destination organization wants to be labelled as a ‘big brother’. This might even be a legitimate fear. Only recently the Dutch city of Enschede was fined 600,000 euros by the national data protection authorities for the city’s use of Wi-Fi sensors to measure the number of people in the city center¹². Despite the evidence of not having intentions to track individual people, the authorities still interpreted the case to be in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

This is of course an example of an escalated case, and it should be noted that such technologies can still be deployed in a privacy-compliant way. Respectively, GDPR compliance has grown to be the core requirement for IoT solutions¹³. So, are DMOs just risk-resistant? We could argue that smart destinations don’t even dare to test IoT solutions as they are so afraid of the ethical and legal issues.

Rule no.1: ask the consumers what they think

The adoption of IoT technologies in tourism has been carefully studied from the system design, data analysis and risk management point of view⁶. However, research on consumer behavior has been left vague.

Interestingly, Vasile Dinu, Sorin Paul Lazăr and Iustin Atanasiu Pop examined the causal relationship between the level of IoT adoption in tourism applications and consumer trust in these systems⁶. Their research hypothesis was that the level of adoption of IoT technologies in tourism is influenced by TAM (Technology Acceptance Model) components: convenience, social influence, habits, confidentiality and safety, awareness, and costs. With an ordered logit model, using a database consisting of 431 Romanian tourists, they were able to showcase a significant influence of behavioral variables connected to awareness, convenience, habits, and cost. However, there was no correlation between the frequency of IoT use and privacy or data security issues found. Consumers seemed to not be seriously concerned about these issues with tourism-related products and applications.

Adam D. Thierer connects the dots by addressing security concerns without derailing innovation¹⁴: “Privacy and security are important values worthy of attention, but so too are innovation, entrepreneurialism, economic growth, price competition, and consumer choice … Although formidable privacy and security challenges are ahead, individuals and institutions will adjust in an evolutionary, resilient fashion, just as they adjusted to earlier disruptive technologies.” 

Hence, if the applications enabled by IoT technology are what the customers ask for, then IoT experimentation in tourism needs to continue. Privacy and security concerns about IoT are legitimate and deserve responses, yet DMOs should not paralyze in front of them. Consequently, consumer adoption of IoT enabled applications should be addressed by further research.

Defining end-value

The probing question regarding IoT’s worthiness for smart destinations seems to be the end-value. What do these solutions bring in as a return of investment? For this tourism destinations should weigh the social, economic and technical value these solutions create. At best, IoT technology can help to optimize the whole tourism service chain by producing truly customer-centric solutions: services and applications that the visitors need, not what destination managers or tourism businesses think they might want. Consequently, it can enhance visitor experience and destination competitiveness.

Then again, for smart destinations, the greatest value of IoT might simply lie in innovation. We cannot speak about smart destinations if we don’t have the guts to try something new. Kim Boes, Dimitrios Buhalis and Alessandro Inversini state that “smartness is driven by innovation and innovation drives smartness”⁸. Smart destinations should therefore consider that succeeding with IoT might even make them gain a good reputation. Do you want to be the first mover with IoT technology or let other destinations figure it out first?


¹ Boes, K., Buhalis, D., & Inversini, A. (2015). Conceptualising smart tourism destination dimensions. In Tussyadiah, I. & Inversini, A. (Eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2015 (391-403). Lugano, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.  

² Kitchin, R. (2014). The real-time city? Big data and smart urbanism. GeoJournal, 79(1), (1-14).

³ Nicolescu, R., Huth, M., Radanliev, P., & De Roure, D. (2018). Mapping the Values of IoT. Journal of information technology33(4), 345-360. 

⁴ Albastroiu, I. (2021). Challenges of IoT Technologies for Businesses and Consumers. Amfiteatru economic, 23(57), 321-323. 

⁵ Nitti, M., Pilloni, V., Giusto, D., Popescu, V. & Ardagna, C. (2017). IoT Architecture for a Sustainable Tourism Application in a Smart City Environment. Mobile information systems, 2017, 1-9. 

⁶ Dinu, V., Sorin, P., & Pop, I. (2021). Factors That Influence the Adoption of the Internet of Things in Tourism by Romanian Consumers. Amfiteatru economic, 23(57), 360-375. 

⁷ Robert, J., Kubler, S., Kolbe, N., Cerioni, A., Gastaud, E. & Främling, K. (2017). Open IoT Ecosystem for Enhanced Interoperability in Smart Cities – Example of Métropole De Lyon. Sensors , 17(12), 2849. 

⁸ Boes, K., Buhalis, D., & Inversini, A. (2016). Smart tourism destinations: ecosystems for tourism destination competitiveness. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 2(2), 108-124. 

⁹ Zach, F. (2016). Collaboration for Innovation in Tourism Organizations: Leadership Support, Innovation Formality, and Communication. Journal of hospitality & tourism research, 40(3), 271-290. 

¹⁰ Angelova, N., Kiryakova, G. & Yordanova, L., (2017). The great impact of internet of things on business. Trakia Journal of Sciences, 15(1), 406-412. 

¹¹ Zubiaga, M., Izkara, J., Gandini, A., Alonso, I. & Saralegui, U. (2019). Towards Smarter Management of Overtourism in Historic Centres Through Visitor-Flow Monitoring. Sustainability 11(24), 7254. 

¹² Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens. (2021). Dutch DPA fines municipality for Wi-Fi tracking. Retrieved 30 October from: 

¹³ Badii, C., Bellini, P., Difino, A. & Nesi, P. (2020). Smart City IoT Platform Respecting GDPR Privacy and Security Aspects. IEEE access, 8, (23601-23623).

¹⁴ Thierer, A. (2015). The Internet of Things and Wearable Technology: Addressing Privacy and Security Concerns without Derailing Innovation. Richmond Journal of Law and Technology, 21(2). 1–118. 

How has technology influenced the rise of LGBT tourism?



What is LGBT tourism all about?

LGBT tourism is the process of tourism product and service development and marketing that caters the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. This specific segment of tourism provides opportunities to select destinations, accommodations, transport, events and so on, which are LGBTQ+ friendly. These create options for LGBT tourists to travel while feeling welcomed and respected. As the modern world moves towards a more inclusive and open-minded attitude, this area of tourism keeps growing with potential and is one of the fastest-growing tourism segments. For more information see

Technology and its impact on LGBT tourism

Technology has had a significant effect on awareness and attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and issues relating to them. UNWTO: Global Report on LGBT Tourism (2012) shows that countries with progressive policies towards LGBT individuals gain more economic benefits from tourism. It also shows that there are improved social benefits resulted from LGBT friendly brand image. This image is formed by inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity.

Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) enables tourism businesses to gain competitive advantages in promotion and marketing, in addition to reinforcing the operations and strategies in the industry. Development of ICTs has enabled tourists in the LGBT segment to actively participate in the creation and sharing of their tourist experiences. This is done by activating conversations in social media with friends, family and others. Development of ICTs has created an opportunity for people to connect despite geographical and physical boundaries. This has decreased the effect of isolation commonly associated with the LGBTQ+ community.

Social media has had an essential role in strengthening the formerly silenced and sidelined voices. Various online, brand and marketing campaigns such as “It gets better” and Spotify: Pride stories, have carried out hope for a better future for the representatives of LGBTQ+ community. However, while the positive awareness and acceptance get better, the negative backlash is fueled. Specially targeted hate campaigns towards the LGBTQ+ community showcase the popularity of homophobic and transphobic convictions people still hold.

LGBT tourist behaviour

As a tourist segment, LGBT tourists have fairly high spending power and more opportunities to travel off-season. Tourists in the LGBT segment utilise all available ways of communication, with a high focus on channels and online platforms developed for this community in particular. These channels and platforms include such as online forums, specified websites, apps and various social networks.

As tourists, LGBT people like any other tourists connect to and use technology, digital and online tools before, during and after travel. Before travel, they utilise the internet to search for LGBT friendly places to visit and while travelling engages with the rest of the community through posts and pictures in social media. After travel, they evaluate the services and use e-WOM to share their experiences. Some applications are specifically catering for this tourism segment, like Misterbnb. This is similar to Airbnb but the accommodation hosts are LGBTQ+ friendly. Another great mobile app is Wimbify. It combines Couchsurfing and Airbnb with a way of meeting other people in this community.

What are the ways to grow as a destination for LGBT tourism?

The question arises; how the tourism industry can gain an advantage of the positive impacts of technology to grow LGBT tourism and is there a way to minimize the negative impacts? Destinations should jump on the bandwagon of creating awareness on inclusiveness and tolerance towards this community. If not existing already, they should develop tourism products and services that are authentically LGBT friendly. Additionally, creating specified marketing campaigns plays a huge role in attracting these tourists and getting the destination on the map as an LGBT friendly tourism destination. This can be achieved through smaller actions as well. It is as simple as using a small rainbow on websites or advertisements. Website design should include inclusive visuals to welcome this segment of tourists. Destinations can add a section for options focusing on LGBT tourists, such as LGBT events calendar in the destination.

It all comes to education and understanding, ensuring that all staff members understand, respect and value all customers equally. Taking the time to research how other LGBT friendly destinations are performing and learning from them is worthwhile. Because there is various online platforms and channels specifically for the LGBT community, tourism product providers should utilise them to engage with tourists. Additionally, they can be used to co-create tourist experiences by involving LGBT customers in every step. Including aspects for LGBT tourists in the company strategy and values, regardless of which tourism segment the business caters creates the potential to emerge in this tourism market.

Overall, the key is to utilize the endless opportunities technology and digitalization has provided in more open-minded, inclusive and tolerant fashion.


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  2. Last, M. (2019). How technology has changed the LGBT+ experience. [Blog] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  3. Liberato, P., Liberato, D., Abreu, A., Alén, E. and Rocha, Á. (2018). LGBT Tourism: The Competitiveness of the Tourism Destinations Based on Digital Technology. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, pp.264-276.
  4. UNWTO (2012).Global Report on LGBT Tourism. AM Reports: Volume three. [online] Madrid: UNWTO and IGLTA. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].
  5. IGLTA (2019).The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association > Home. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2019].