How Ambient Intelligence can bring value to travel experience?

It is almost a norm in science fiction movies that doors open automatically, rooms know when you are about to enter, and coffee machines can predict when it is time for a hot cuppa. Ambient Intelligence has been a concept for a long time, but only through recent technological advancements, it has become a real possibility to bring this interactive technological omnipresence into our everyday lives. First Ambient Intelligence systems are already here but the future promises even greater advantages.

Ambient atmosphere with lots of color

But what is Ambient Intelligence, actually?

Ambient Intelligence, or AmI for shorter, is a term used for sensor-reliant, sensitive technologies, that interact with the user, interconnecting different appliances <sup>3</sup>. Many have probably heard about Amazon’s voice-command assistant Alexa or have used a smart tv, but Ambient Intelligence goes beyond voice-recognizing AI. Smartness and AmI are often mentioned together but are not synonyms of each other. Rather, smartness includes many different technologies, including Ambient Intelligence, that all together create a smart environment <sup>1</sup>. Special characteristics for AmI are interactivity, sensitivity, adaptability, and omnipresence <sup>1</sup>. Plus it is embedded in everyday life. An example of AmI system could be interconnected, voice-operated kitchen appliances. Now, wouldn’t it be cool to let your fridge order the groceries?

As technology progresses, it is forecasted that in the future existing and emerging technologies will be more interconnected and interoperable through smart technologies. <sup>1</sup> Ambient environment has been described as a place where humans are “surrounded by intelligent interfaces supported by computing and networking technology that is embedded in everyday objects, such as furniture, clothes, vehicles and smart materials”. <sup>2</sup> This suggests that future with ambient environment is slowly but surely on its way, but are the users ready for this?

Judging by the full potential AmI technologies have, we are still in the beginning stages of the journey. However, AmI systems are already used in many places, such as hospitals, smart homes, and even in schools and kindergartens. <sup>3</sup> Smart homes utilizing AmI systems are helping inhabitants to live happier, safer, and healthier lives. <sup>4</sup> AmI can help relieve stress by making everyday tasks easier, faster, and less stressful. Other perks are its ability to offer entertainment and even customize environments. <sup>4</sup>

There has also been research on use of AmI in commercial settings. Combining AmI and e-commerce principles can create foundations for ubiquitous commerce, or u-commerce in short <sup>5</sup> , a new potential for e-commerce. Another research has been focusing on utilizing geomarketing in the creation of a personal shopping assistant for customers visiting a store. <sup>6</sup> This implies that AmI will be used on a much wider scale than at first glance one might comprehend, truly intertwined with everyday experiences, making it difficult to specify when AmI is assisting you or not.

colorful reflections of home décor bottles in sunlight creating special ambiance

Ambient Intelligence in tourism ecosystems

In the tourism field, Smart hotel concept has been gaining a lot of interest. Much like smart homes, hotels utilizing smartness and AmI systems will create interconnected and sensitive environments. This kind of hotel can use technologies such as a digital wallet, sensor-activated lights, voice-assisted room functions, room décor customization, or even automated real-time translation <sup>7</sup> to create an ambient environment.

Opportunities with AmI have been also explored in interactive museums and even on a city tour <sup>8</sup> but there is much more potential in tourism-related enterprises. One of the biggest, life-changing aspects of AmI is that it increases inclusiveness and accessibility. For example, AmI systems can make it easier for guests with impairments to deal with physical and service-related barriers that they face during their stay. <sup>9</sup>

But what does Ambient Intelligence actually bring to tourism ecosystems? Intelligence, flexibility, sensitivity, and adaptability to all stakeholders, including customers. <sup>1</sup> Good thing about AmI technologies is that they can be used in many places. For example, technologies tested and used in healthcare could very well benefit visitors staying at a hotel or visiting a spa. For companies, the real challenge lies in integration of these new systems into their existing business, which should be done in a way that complements the existing practices, rather than replaces them completely. <sup>2</sup>

smart phone in a technology related ambiance

Value for customers

For customers, Ambient Intelligence can create new experiences and value. AmI supports service that happens in real-time. For customers time is essence and technologies such as AmI allow them to engage with companies and brands whenever they desire. AmI technologies enable value co-creation across multiple platforms among all stakeholders. As an effect of smartness, everybody becomes dynamically interconnected within the ecosystem, and therefore everybody participates in creating value. <sup>1</sup> For AmI systems to work as intended, it is important to add a touch of human element to them. Interaction should be enjoyable, natural, and technology itself easy to use. These systems should recognize user preferences, needs, and wants, but also know when to interrupt and when the communication is too much. <sup>3</sup>

Ambient Intelligence is unfortunately not all positivity and rainbows. Technological advancements bring up darker issues such as privacy, compromised accessibility, and even worries about people neglecting their basic needs as a result of excessive smart technologies. <sup>10</sup> These concerns might seem a bit farfetched for the time being, but it is important to keep in mind the possible negatives that come along all the positives. For customers loss of privacy, information leaks, and hacking can cause serious consequences.

sign post in sunset depicting future direction

So how does AmI bring value to travel experiences?

All in all, Ambient Intelligence presents intriguing possibilities, and it will be very interesting to follow how AmI systems and usage will develop in upcoming years. For the tourism sector, it gives new opportunities for value creation, and for customers, it will be thrilling to explore all the new ways everyday life can be enhanced. At this moment intelligent systems are more common in home and healthcare environments, but the real experiential value lies in the possible use in tourism and leisure. Global pandemic has introduced us to a world that is more accustomed to technologies and tourism industry is taking notes. It is not plausible to take your Alexa with you on holiday, yet, but perhaps in the near future, it will be possible. It would make a tourist’s journey a whole lot easier if it would be possible to integrate your own smart device into the AmI system that is used in the destination, acting as your own, fully personalized electronic butler. But for now, there are still concerns about privacy, and AmI applications are not advanced enough yet.

Reoccurring themes on articles used on this post have been the expected growth in interest for real-time interactions. This is undoubtedly one of the biggest pros of AmI systems and will make lives more convenient, but at the same time a question emerges about what happens in a long run to our everyday lives? Will our cultural and traditional tendencies fade, or does the AmI support our cultural roots? Is human-on-human contact going to be more rare as we move towards a world where technologies and robots are doing tasks for us, instead of us doing them ourselves? If every day is seamlessly assisted with technologies, it surely will translate into travel behaviour as well. Judging by how us humans are using phones even during holidays, it could be very possible that AmI technologies would be the first thing to pack with you to a holiday. On the other hand, in the future value of travelling could also lay in experiences outside the scope of technology, and digital detox would be a big trend. However It is impossible to see in the future, but for the time being, technology is definitely presenting more promising opportunities for the future of travel.

<sup>1</sup> Buhalis, D. 2019. Technology in tourism-from information communication technologies to eTourism and smart tourism towards ambient intelligence tourism: a perspective article. Tourism Review 75 (1), 267-272.

<sup>2</sup>Buhalis, D., O’Connor, P. 2005. Information Communication Technology Revolutionizing Tourism. Tourism Recreation Research 30 (3), 7-16.

<sup>3</sup>Cook, D., Augusto, J., Jakkula, V. 2009. Ambient intelligence: Technologies, applications, and opportunities. Pervasive and Mobile Computing 5, 277-298.

<sup>4</sup>Friedewald, M., Da Costa, O., Punie, Y., Alahuhta, P., Heinonen, S. 2005. Perspectives of ambient intelligence in the home environment. Telematics and Informatics 22 (3), 221-238.

<sup>5</sup>Keegan, S., O’Hare, G., O’Grady, M. 2008. Easishop: Ambient intelligence assists everyday shopping. Information Sciences 178 (3), 588-611.

<sup>6</sup>Zaim, D., Benomar, A., Bellafkih, M. 2018. Geomarketing Solution: An Ambient Intelligence Application in Shopping. Smart Application and Data Analysis for Smart Cities (SADASC’18).

<sup>7</sup>Mutreja, A., Chan, J., Peko, G., Sundaram, D. 2022. Jazz: A Design Metaphor for Ambient Intelligence Tourism Systems. AMCIS 2022 Proceedings 13.

<sup>8</sup>Sadri, F. 2011. Ambient intelligence: A survey. ACM Computing Surveys 43 (4), 1-66.

<sup>9</sup>Michopoulou, E., Buhalis, D. 2013. Information provision for challenging markets: The case of The accessibility requiring market in the context of tourism. Information and Management 50 (5), 229-239.

<sup>10</sup>Aczel, M. 2017. The dark side of technology, by Peter Townsend: Scope: general interest, review. Level: general readership, non-specialist, specialist. Contemporary Physics 58 (3), 1-2.

How a starting tourism business creates customer value by adopting digital marketing technology?

How a new tourism business creates customer value by adopting digital marketing technology?

Everybody is online today and everybody is expecting all the noteworthy and legitimate running businesses to be there as well. If the consumer can not find your online presence the chances are your business goes unnoticed. Even worse it builds an image of untrustworthiness in the minds of the consumers. The potential customer may presume the business can not deliver what the customer is expecting. If the business fails in the first customer touch point the game is over before it even began, no matter how good the service or a product in reality is.

travel planning

Where to start when you´re starting- the do´s and don’t´s

 Alford and Page state in their study of technology adoption in marketing that SMEs who have a strong Web presence grow twice as quickly as those who have no or minimal presence1. It is essential to seriously think about implementing technology from the very beginning. As a starting business owner, you should start by thinking about what you want to achieve and who you want to reach. Once the business plan is ready, the goals, strategy and the understanding of the desired customer is clear it is time to use this knowledge as a basis in creating a suitable digital marketing plan. The plan should not be a separate aspect but rather intertwined with all that is in the very core of the business.

Dredge et al. examined the challenges and opportunities of digitalisation in tourism listing the needs of tourism businesses when taking up new technology2. They identified five topics: skills, mentoring support, finance, policy support, and infrastructure.


The digital competencies of your business will play a key role in the successful uptake of digital technologies. Often tourism businesses lack the necessary technical resources in their workforce to fully realise digital potentials. This can be due to a number of factors such as a lack of knowledge in identifying required digital skills to limited staffing issues. These restrict the time and effort which can be applied to learning new digital processes. You should map your knowledge and see if you already have knowledgeable personnel in the company. Or think do you want to outsource completely or partly.

Mentoring support

One option is to use mentoring initiatives. Mentoring can boost innovation, enhance creativity and ideation and assist with capacity building. It may improve connectivity between tourism enterprises, technology companies, the arts and cultural sector, and other start-ups. Mentoring reduces the distance and improves the timeliness, of advice between those that have the expertise and those that need to learn. It can be a prolific co-operation between two or more companies where all parties deliver something the other needs helping their businesses thrive. It is smart to keep in mind to not to bite off more than you can chew and here the importance of networking stands out.


Lack of finance is identified as the number one obstacle preventing the implementation of digital technologies in tourism businesses. There is a significant concern amongst tourism businesses that the cost of implementing new digital technologies will be more than the gains. Analyse what technology your business can benefit from and make a decision. You can start by taking up a few platforms and expanding from there according to the set budget. It is important to remember to build digital marketing around your customers and choose channels accordingly. Thinking which technology to choose to reach the specific customers and which technology brings the most value to the customer in return. Starting smaller and smart saves time and assets.

Policy support

You need policy initiatives and actions to support business awareness of new technologies. They make clear the benefits of their implementation. Your business requires support in business planning and decision-making with regards to new technologies to ensure efficient utilisation. Do research on the available technologies and find what best suits your needs and what serves your customers best. Find out what is out there, any new innovations that would suit you and your customers´, needs. Choose only appropriate, functional and effective technologies.


The geographic location of tourism enterprises greatly affects their access to adequate digital infrastructures. In developed countries, connections tend to already be adequate even in more remote areas. Still, businesses in urban settings benefit from modern wireless and fibre broadband connections. The infrastructure in rural or more remote areas can be less developed. Getting your software and connections up-to-date is important so that the basic tools at hand are functional.

Are you (all) motivated enough?

Different personal motivations, corporate culture and managers attitude affect the willingness to adopt technology, which is traditionally explained by the technology acceptance model (TAM). Ritz et al. studied the combination of TAM and the do-it-yourself (DIY) behaviour model in adopting new technologies. They stated that small businesses are less likely to participate in digital marketing than larger businesses3. TAM evaluates the ease of use and perceived usefulness of the technology. DIY motivators are economic benefits and lack of quality in existing services. In other words, managers should make the use of technology easy and the economic advantages and other benefits that come with technology apparent. This applies to themselves and communicating this to the whole team.

Alford and Page found out that small business owner-managers have a positive attitude and a real appetite for adopting technology for marketing1. If you can channel this attitude successfully to motivate your employees you may be able to get staff involved in creating more innovative marketing content. This may serve a wider spectrum of customer expectations that exist towards your business.

So what is customer value and how it is created using technology?

 According to Holbrook customer value is the basic foundation for everything in marketing. It can be defined as a preference, experience, interactive and relativistic, that is comparative, personal, and situational4. Komppula and Gartner talk further about desired value, which refers to the value that customers want to receive from products or services and their providers. Received value refers to the value customers have actually experienced through specific customer interactions5. Zeithaml encapsulates the definition by stating that value represents “a trade-off of the salient give and get components”6. All the definitions explain what exactly is the customer value that is created when a business can answer to the needs and wants of their customers.

The product of tourism business is a service that can be thought of as an intangible object which is more difficult to define and label. The service involves emotions, hopes and dreams and the pursuit of satisfaction. As Neuhofer et al. state in their study experiences constitute the essence of the tourism industry7. Holbrook continues that therefore customer value resides neither in the product purchased, in the brand chosen, nor the object possessed but rather in the consumption experiences outcome. People desire not simply the product but rather what is behind the product or service; the satisfaction the experience brings through activity8.

It is all about the experience

It is important to understand the consumer´s journey. How they experience it throughout all the phases of tourism experience which happens before, during and after the service situation as stated by Opute et al9. For a business aiming to achieve improved customer experiential value at a profit, the focus should be to leverage digital technology. This is to fundamentally optimise customer satisfaction. That is why the focus should not be limited to leveraging digital technology to ensure more effective service design and implementation. It should also be about leveraging such technology to drive an integrated implementation strategy. The strategy should recognise the importance of reaching out to customers. This involves engaging actively with them to access customer ideas and suggesting cues for improving their overall experience.

Opute et al. studied the role digital technologies play in tourism customer service experience. They continue by stating and summing up that tourism service providers can leverage digital technologies to drive a customer engagement focus. Doing this higher customer experiential value is reached. At the same time, customer retention and organisational performance improve. Achieving these targets requires the business to interactively engage with customers. By leveraging customer-generated information to fine-tune tourism service design and delivery leave an indelible and memorable impression in the mind of the customers. Customers may attach a high experiential value to a tourism service episode. When this happens they are motivated to undertake a repurchase or re-endorsement of the service. In addition, they want to share their positive service experience afterward9. This reminds the business to put emphasis on the follow-up of the customer visit on the marketing plan.

Ready, engage, interact!

Interaction is what consumers want. They want to be recognized and treated personally. Businesses have to keep in mind that consumers are not completely dependent on communication with the business. They also want to communicate with other consumers and a smart business creates these opportunities. This brings great value to the customer. Customers want honesty and transparency and they go where they can get it. As Prahalad and Ramaswamy 10 found out the consumers can choose the firms they want to have a relationship with. The consumer base this on their own views of how value should be created for them. This reminds the starting tourism business to be humble and how important it is to engage and answer to the customers’ expectations.

Technology adoption has been successful when your business uses technology that is suitable for your strategy. If the technology produces measurable customer value it can be said your business has been very successful. Tapping your digital marketing efforts on all the stages of the tourism experience you maximise the effect and benefit of technology. This way your business ends up creating superb value for the customer.


This blog post was written as a part of the Information Technology in Tourism Business course at the International Master’s Degree Programme in Tourism Marketing and Management (University of Eastern Finland Business School). Read more about the programme at


1Alford, Philip & Page, Stephen John. 2015. Marketing technology for adoption by small business. Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University. The Service Industries Journal, 2015-07-07, Vol.35 (11-12-9, p. 655-669. ISSN: 1743-9507 DOI: 10.1080/02642069.2015.1062884

2Dredge, D., Phi, G., Mahadevan, R., Meehan, E. & Popescu, E.S. 2018. Digitalisation in Tourism: In-depth analysis of challenges and opportunities. Low Value procedure GRO-SME-17-C-091-A for Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) Virtual Tourism Observatory. Aalborg University, Copenhagen. © European Union, 1995-2019. Available at: Retrieved 25.10.2020.

8Holbrook M.B. (Ed.). 1999. Consumer value: A framework for analysis and research. London (UK): Routledge.

4Holbrook, M. B. 2005. Customer value and autoethnography: subjective personal introspection and the meanings of a photograph collection. Journal of Business Research, 2005-01, Vol. 58 (1), p. 45-61. ISSN: 0148-2963, DOI: 10.1016/s0148-2963(03)00079-1

5Komppula, R., & Gartner, W. C. 2013. Hunting as a travel experience: An auto-ethnographic study of hunting tourism in Finland and the USA. Tourism Management (1982), 2013-04, Vol.35, p. 168-180.35. ISSN: 0261-5177, DOI: 10.1016/j.tourman.2012.06.014

7Neuhofer, B., Buhalis, D., & Ladkin, A. 2014. A typology of technology‐enhanced tourism experiences. International Journal of Tourism Research, 2014-07, Vol. 16 (4), p.340-350. ISSN: 1099-2340, DOI: 10.1002/jtr.1958

9Opute, A. P., Irene, B. & Iwu, C. G. 2020. Tourism Service and Digital Technologies: A Value Creation Perspective. African Journal of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure, 2020-03-01, Vol. 9 (2). EISNN:2223-814X

10Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. 2004. Co-creation experiences: The next practice in value creation. Journal of interactive marketing, 2004-01, Vol. 18 (3), p.5-14. ISSN:1094-9968, DOI: 10.1002/dir.20015

3Ritz, Wendy, Wolf, Marco & McQuitty, Shaun. 2019. Digital marketing adoption and success for small businesses: The application of the do-it-yourself and technology acceptance models. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing.2019-06-16, Vol.13(2), p.179-203. ISSN:2040-7122. DOI: 10.1108/JRIM-04-2018-0062

6Zeithaml, V. A. 1988. Consumer perceptions of price, quality, and value: a means-end model and synthesis of evidence. Journal of Marketing, 1988-07-01, vol. 52 (3), p.2-22. ISSN:0022-2429.DOI:10.1177/002224298805200302


What makes or breaks the content on a good tourism website?

What kind of content works on a top-notch tourism website? What actually engages the visitor to stay on the page longer and better yet -develop a genuine interest towards the company?

When a few small things are taken into consideration, it is easier to capture the attention of the visitor. The most important thing to take into consideration is the customer value proposition.

The nitty-gritties

Who is your customer, what problem are you trying to solve for them, what are your customers’ needs and what will they gain from your services? By answering these questions you are well on your way of designing prime content for your website.

Answering these questions is also important because a website acts as a first impression -the first few seconds determine whether or not the visitor will stay on your site. The content on your website must be engaging not just for selling but for solving the customers’ needs in the best case. Also, keep in mind you may want to produce different content for your various target groups.

Make the first impressions count

Needless to say, what affects the first impression is the visuality of your site; pictures, videos, colours etc. Did you know that there’s research to show that visuality affects the customers ability to imagine themselves in your destination or using your product? Now you do. While it may not work to your advantage to have a 2 minute HD ad video on your site as it would slow it down, it will be beneficial to have relevant pictures and you may want to consider shorter clips.

Symbolic ideas for content

Convince, link and create

Whatever you produce onto your website, the content has to be persuasive as this affects the customers’ attitudes towards your company and product. The tone in which you present your written points should also be consistent -this way you maintain credibility in the eyes of the reader. In addition, you should sound confident but not intimidating and the tone must tell the story of your business and be in line with what you offer.

A couple of tech-savvy pieces of content that are good to have would be online chats, relevant calls to action as well as reviews from your clients and perhaps even photos taken by your customers. Don’t forget to include your contact details or social media links either! If you’re for example writing a blog, it might be an idea to include a snippet from your content there as well.

Above all, your website content needs to tell a story, as stories are what appeals to us and make us engage with a brand. Don’t just lay out the facts and service attributes but tell the emotional stories around them.