How technology can contribute to more sustainable future of tourism?

The economic importance of tourism globally is recognized. It creates jobs and some places are dependent on it. In recent years its impacts and development have been discussed although these tend to stay behind the focus on the economic benefits. Tourism has negative environmental and socio-economic impacts, and the industry needs to find a balance between the level of economic growth, environmental conservation and socio-cultural impacts. 1 United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was represented in 2015. Tourism was clearly mentioned in goals 8 (decent work & economic growth), 12 (responsible consumption and production) and 14 (life below water). 2 The development and role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become evident in tourism, and it is an especially significant player in the implementation of the SDGs in the industry. 3 This blog explains how technology can contribute to sustainable tourism by helping to achieve SDG’s!

The relationship between tourism, technology and sustainable development

Four stages of ICT development can be differentiated in tourism: opportunity, disruption, immersion and usurpation. These stages enabled things like computerized reservation systems, global distribution systems, websites of tourism companies, speed and easiness of reservations, and price competition. Through these stages, ICT became an evident part of the everyday life of many consumers. We use social media and innovations like Airbnb.4 ICT systems are widely used in tourism to support important activities in tourism, like accommodation, transportation and communication benefitting both suppliers and tourists. The adoption of them has been affected by changing the competitive scope. 5

Photo by Danila Hamsterman on Unsplash

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by United Nations consist of 17 goals related to for example environmental conservation, climate, equality and poverty alleviation. According to the UN, “tourism can and must play a significant role in delivering sustainable solutions for people, the planet, prosperity and peace” and it “has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly to all of the goals”. 2 The broad categories, in which the 17 SDGs for tourism can be grouped under, are economic (Goals 1, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), environment (Goals 6, 13, 14, 15), social-cultural (Goals 2, 3, 4, 5, 16) and governance (Goal 17). 3 ICT innovations in turn are often perceived as socially enriching and supportive of the SDGs. 4 Below are listed three things enabled by technology and how these contribute to the SDG’s!

Sharing economy platforms

 Let’s start with a small bite. A potential contributor to a sustainable future with promising outcomes for SDGs is the sharing economy with its platforms widely used in tourism enabled by technology, like Airbnb and Couchsurfing. These platforms may enhance for example cultural learning and intercultural friendships and economic sustainability by providing access to the market for people from developing countries, women entrepreneurs and empowering small or rural businesses. It can be said that platforms provide access to underutilized resources, generate employment and could reduce resource consumption. 6 Thus, sharing economy platforms could contribute to multiple SDG’s 2:  no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work & economic growth (8), industry innovation and infrastructure (9), sustainable cities & communities (11) and responsible consumption & production (12).

Tools for DMOs

 Applying ICTs in destination management can boost sustainable tourism. Information and communication technologies can help destination management organizations (DMOs) in their work for sustainable tourism development by enabling several applications or tools that can be used for information management, fulfilling tourist satisfaction, supporting community participation, and trying to manage energy usage and its impacts, among others. These include for example Destination Management systems (DMS), Environment Management Information Systems (EMIS), Location Based Services (LBS), Community Informatics (CI), virtual tourism and carbon calculators. 7 ICTs can also offer new distribution channels and raise the level of communication and interaction with and between stakeholders. They have a major role in information collection, analyzation, management and distribution. They help to measure impacts, monitor and report. 8

Photo by Windows on Unsplash

One of the most important tools for destination managers for supporting efforts in sustainable tourism development is Destination Management Systems (DMS) which can be used for actions such as information management, marketing, resource management and tourist education. Environment Management Information Systems (EMIS) helps tourism planning and decision-making by offering valuable data on tourism impacts at the destination and monitoring emissions and waste management. Location Based Services (LBS) provide information on tourists’ specific locations helping destination management in terms of informing the tourists about sites and attractions to visit and educating them about sensitive locations, appropriate tourist behavior and sustainable choices in the destination. Community Informatics (CI) can be used to aid community engagement, heritage and tradition preservation, interpretation, community cohesion and education of tourists. It includes community involvement in decisions regarding tourism development and planning at the destination. Virtual Tourism (VT) in turn offers a new option for experiencing tourism products or service offerings. It can reduce the degradation of attractions by reducing tourist numbers and providing information about the destination leading to positive environmental impacts. Finally, a carbon calculator is a product innovation that informs tourists about their carbon footprint before and during their trip. 8 The use of technology-based tools in destination management help to achieve at least the SDGs 2 of reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities & communities (11), responsible consumption & production (12), climate action (13), life on land (14) and partnerships for the goals (17).

Empowerment of local communities

ICTs can have significant direct and indirect impacts on the local community. Tourism literature has emphasized local communities as a key resource for sustainable tourism development, indicating the importance of their inclusion and involvement of them. Tourism, often utilizing the natural and cultural heritage of the communities, is important for community development and poverty alleviation offering employment also to women. With the help of ICTs, it is possible for small businesses to promote and manage their business and bookings. In addition to economic benefits for locals, it enables benefits such as skills development, better access to education, exposure to the world outside the community and strengthened confidence and community engagement. For example, the research found that ICTs had a big role in community development in Malaysia. The use of ICTS in homestay accommodations enabled the community more opportunities for education and ICT training. The local community learnt to use the various booking platforms for accommodation. Communities could improve their access to higher education and skills in hospitality due to the success of the business enabled by ICTs. In addition, with access to the internet the locals were able to educate themselves about environmental conservation. 9

Photo by Adismara Putri Pradiri on Unsplash

Wrap up

The use of ICT is not new in tourism, but it could be said, that the use for trying to move towards sustainable tourism is.8 For tourism, technology has enabled innovations and phenomena, such as sharing economy platforms, tools for destination management and empowerment of local communities. These contribute to several SDG’s aiming at poverty reduction, creating employment, economic growth and battle against inequality, simply a more sustainable future. Technology-based tools used by DMO’s help to tackle environmental issues in destinations and make their work more efficient and effective. Involvement of ICTs in tourism has been important, especially for local communities of destination as those help in support and inclusion of local communities in decisions, education of both locals and tourists, and provides opportunity and help to communities to preserve and share their local cultures and languages. The negative impacts of tourism can be mitigated with the help of ICT. 7

United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals some years ago and stated that tourism can contribute to all of the goals. The application of technology for tourism and hospitality can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. This blog post gives only some examples. The recovery of COVID-19 is, by the way, a unique opportunity in the tourism industry to evaluate the supporting role of tourism in the achievement of SDGs with the use of technology. 3 Could we say that technology is the way to sustainable tourism? At least it is safe to say that it is one of those that will get us there.


  1. Ali, A. & Frew, A.J. 2014. ICT for sustainable tourism: a challenging relationship? Information Technology & Tourism 14, 261–264.
  2. Tourism for SDGS 2021. Tourism & Sustainable Development Goals. [Tourism for SDGS website] Referenced on 15.12.2021.
  3. Ali, A., Rasoolimanesh, S.M. & Cobanoglu, C. 2020. Editorial – Technology in Tourism and Hospitality to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology,11(2), 177-181. DOI:10.1108/JHTT-05-2020-146
  4. Gössling, S. 2021. Tourism, technology and ICT: a critical review of affordances and concessions. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 29(5), 733-750. DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2021.1873353
  5. Morais, E., Cunha, C., Sousa, J. & Santos, A. 2016. Information and communication technologies in tourism: Challenges and trends. Paper presented at 27th IBIMA Conference, 4-5 May 2016, Milan, Italy.
  6. Gössling, S & Hall, C.M. 2019. Sharing versus collaborative economy: how to align ICT developments and the SDGs in tourism? Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 27(1), 74-96. DOI: 10.1080/09669582.2018.1560455
  7. Ali, A. & Frew, A. 2010. ICT and its Role in Sustainable Tourism Development. Paper presented at the ENTER 2010: 17th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism, 10-12 February 2010, Lugano, Switzerland.
  8. Ali, A. & Frew, A.J. 2014. Technology innovation and applications in sustainable destination development. Information Technology and Tourism 14, 265–290.
  9. Gan, S., Inversini, A & Rega, I. 2018. Tourism, Development and Digital Technologies: Insights from Malaysian Homestays. In: Stangl, B. & Pesonen, J. (eds.) Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2018. Cham: Springer, 52-63.
  10. Roztocki, N., Soja, P. & Weistroffer, H.R. 2019. The role of information and communication technologies in socioeconomic development: towards a multi-dimensional framework. Information Technology for Development, 25(2), 171-183. DOI: 10.1080/02681102.2019.1596654







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 to do video marketing in tourism businesses?

Did you know that most people prefer video over reading? Also, social media platforms have started to favour video content, making video marketing in tourism an important part of any modern marketing mix. Videos have been growing fast as popular media content, especially on social media. Videos have great traffic potential and convert customers if you do it right. You can increase your business’ visibility and get more customers with video marketing.

If you think it is too hard to make videos, here are some suggestions: someone else could do it for you, or you could learn to do it yourself. It doesn’t have to be an expensive project, but high-quality videos can be more viable. It is a bit scary to step in front of the camera, but tourism is a human-to-human business and it is definitely worth it.

Photo by Robin Noguier on Unsplash

When you are thinking about doing video marketing in tourism, consider at least the following aspects:

  1. Think a clear purpose for the video

The clearer the purpose is the clearer it is to make and watch. There can be many kinds of purposes like you can make the video to introduce your brand, tell your values and build the trust and awareness or you can do a video just for entertainment. Remember to take into consideration in which stage the reached customers would be: are they still looking for inspiration (pre-purchase stage) or are they already comparing and deciding which service they are willing to buy, for example.

  1. Do different types of videos

Try to do a different kind of videos for different purposes. You could make a virtual tour and take the viewers with you, for example in your facilities or activities. When you give a glance to your customers beforehand, they can be convinced of your services and want to experience it by themselves. Videos increase trust as they convey a lot of information.

  1. Publish it in the right place and at the right time

Publish the video on the platforms and channels where your customers are. YouTube and Facebook at least are the most common video platforms right now. Also, think about the timing. Publish the video when there are most of the people online to gain the best results. And not just any people, but your target audience.

  1. Make it useful for all

You could make a video where you answer the frequently asked questions (FAQ) or educate your future customers by making a behave in your destination or how-to check-in on the self-service desk or how to paddle safely on stand up paddle (SUP) board.

  1. Don’t be boring

Try new things like 360 °, virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) videos, use drones or other technology. And more importantly, make your viewers laugh or at least to smile. Everyone needs a little fun to their days.

  1. Use influencers

Especially if you are not familiar with the technology, you can ask a videoblogger, for example, to introduce your business in an interesting way. Choose the influencer that has the audience who could also be interested in your business. Good influencer may have a great power to increase your markets. Same with other networks!

  1. Create and tell stories

Stories always work for people. Make a story that people can identify with, the video that makes the viewer emotional or inspired. Answer to your customers needs and desires and make the video attractive and your services irresistible, so your viewers would think “I must go there, and I must experience that!”. But still, be real, you have to meet their expectations. It is easy to talk about facts, but tourists make choices based on their feelings.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

What else? See good examples below:

Vinkare is Finnish video blogger and influencer with almost 150 000 subscribers on YouTube. He always uses the newest technology and can do nice tricks with it. This is a useful and fun marketing video of Sastamala city.

For foreign readers, here is another example. This is inspirational video content in the first place. It introduces national parks in the USA.

The last video is a good example where the tourism business answers the customers’ questions, wonders and gives tips for families in Disney Park.

Thanks for reading. Hopefully, you got some ideas for your own content marketing and video marketing in tourism.

Are you looking for an international tourism-focused master’s degree programme in business? Tourism Marketing and Management programme by University of Eastern Finland provides a unique learning experience for students who have finished their bachelor’s degree and are looking for new skills and knowledge in developing tourism industry in a sustainable way. Read more about the programme at