Destination management organisations (DMOs) have to adapt to the changing behaviour of guests. For a DMO, establishing a digital infrastructure is crucial for the future. However, this infrastructure has long since ceased to refer only to a modern website. Guests inform themselves about the holiday destination on various channels. They are also online at the holiday destination with their smartphone, tablet or laptop and book additional services directly there. Guests should therefore be picked up digitally where they are. Three key elements can be distinguished in the digital tourism infrastructure: Digital equipment, data infrastructure and digital applications.
A digital tourism infrastructure can be divided into digital equipment, data infrastructure and digital applications.
In order for digital services to be used, data exchange must be guaranteed. A good internet connection is elementary, but by no means standard in rural tourism regions. For the guest, free WLAN hotspots are therefore all the more important. The equipment also includes transponders (readers) for digital access control to destinations such as swimming pools or ski slopes. In addition, there should be the possibility to pay digitally with the smartphone – be it for the beach chair or the après-ski drink. In the future, sensor technology will also gain in importance in the form of transmitters that measure parking lot occupancy or restaurant capacity in real time and forward this information to digital applications.
The basic prerequisite for the use of digital services can be created in rural tourist destinations via WLAN hotspots.
However, digital hardware systems are only of use to guests if the corresponding data quality is available. Good data is characterised in particular by its integrity, accuracy and timeliness. In addition, editorial content should of course be created to a high standard so that the destination is presented accordingly well.
The data infrastructure for the destination focuses on all information that is important for orientation at the holiday destination itself. It is irrelevant where guests retrieve the data. They should be enabled to access the information on all important channels, so their different “digital habits” should always be taken into account. Conversely, this means that data should be prepared in such a way that they are independent of the output medium and are therefore available on all conceivable channels. For this purpose, the data must be structured in such a way that they are machine-readable and are available in an open standard and freely licensed. Then they can be related to others (networking) and played out independently of the respective output device.
Data should be prepared in such a way that it can be played out regardless of the output channel and licensing restrictions.
A Digital Labeling Concept
The data infrastructure can be compared with real signage at the holiday resort. Details of hotels (hotel itinerary), places of interest or public sanitary facilities are a must – this should also apply in the digital space, as the web is increasingly the source of information and bookings for guests.
Digital applications are apps, voice assistants, websites, etc. They can either be provided by the destination itself or they are third-party applications (for example Google Maps). All the digital touchpoints guests come into contact with impact the overall experience. Applications are the interface to the guest, they connect the data infrastructure with the digital equipment and put it into value.
Digital applications form the interfaces to the guests.
Guest Card as a Master Key
The example of the digital guest card is a very good illustration of how the offers of a destination can be transferred into digital services. The traditional guest card can become a central strategic instrument if it is supplemented digitally. It can still be offered as a real card so that guests are not irritated and can maintain their habits. At the same time, those guests who are digitally experienced can be given the opportunity to use the digital terminal as a substitute for the guest card. The parallel use of guest card and smartphone is possible if a complementary application is offered in the form of a native app, a progressive web app (PWA) or a mobile website via which additional services and information can be integrated. A log-in should take place via the digital counterpart, so that data of the users (after their consent) can be collected via the identification.
A digital guest card can be offered in the form of a physical card, digitally on a smartphone or smartwatch. It is important to have a complementary digital application through which additional services can be offered.
The digital guest card can be used by guests as a general key in the destination.
Payment The digital guest card creates payment options at the holiday resort. It is used to purchase all services connected to the guest card and to grant discounts on entrance fees. It is important for the DMO that all participating partners who enable the use of the guest card have an appropriate reader available to enable digital payment.
Public transport When it comes to access to public transport, guest cards are often an important basic service. Access to buses and trains should therefore be made as easy as possible. Ideally, access is possible directly with the guest card. New mobility concepts such as car sharing, e-scooter and/or e-bike rental can also be integrated via the guest card.
Admission ticket The discounted option for online booking of excursion destinations can mean great added value for guests via a complementary digital application. Supplementary functions such as route guidance to the excursion destination, information on the best public transport connection or alternative excursion destinations can significantly expand the service with such a digital connection.
Room key If the guest card is issued in a hotel, it makes sense that it can also be used to open the room door. So guests get a “one fits all” solution. Alternatively, it is also possible that a separate application is used for this purpose if it is also available on the smartphone.
Additional functions such as route guidance or alternative offers can be integrated into the guest card via the digital supplement.
The Role of the DMO
The multi-layered changes resulting from digitalisation also require a change in the DMO itself. The DMO becomes an impulse generator, network node and, last but not least, know-how carrier, which contributes to carrying a “digital mindset” into the region and developing a vision for the future through knowledge transfer.
The DMO is building digital literacy among all stakeholders. To this end, it must acquire know-how itself and disseminate this knowledge throughout the region, for example by means of train-the-trainer concepts. In this way, it becomes the knowledge hub of the region.
Networking In addition to the pure transfer of knowledge, it is important that networks are established and expanded. In the establishment of the digital infrastructure, there is an exchange of experience between the stakeholders, so that networking is already taking place here. Ideas for the exchange of data and a culture of innovation for the development of prototypical applications that transcend regional boundaries are emerging.
Impress Guests with Lasting Enthusiasm
A guest card can serve as an interface for various services within the destination through the expansion of digital components. Core benefits are usually free local transport and discounts or even free access to attractions in the region such as ski slopes, swimming pools or museums. With these core services, countless additional and exciting services can be developed through the possibilities of digitalization. The guest card is at the heart of this, it is used to pay, it ensures discounted access to excursion destinations, public transport, car sharing etc.. Low-threshold access to the guest card is an advantage so that it can be distributed as widely as possible. The more guests use the card, the more attractive and important it is for the region and its guests.
For the DMO, a well-functioning digital guest card can be an important control element in visitor guidance and in the management of service providers.
The more that can be offered with the guest card beyond the core services, the higher the customer satisfaction can be. Unexpected services can inspire guests.
Examples of Additional Services
Cheap parking If you have a guest card, you can park free of charge in certain car parks. In this way, visitor guidance is possible and crowding is avoided.
Guest card in exchange for car key If you hand in your car key for the duration of your stay, you get your guest card for free. Guests will then have access to a comprehensive range of mobility services and will also receive the best route guidance via the digital application of the guest card.
Mobility Sharing The destination maintains a fleet of e-cars, e-scooters, e-bikes, bikes, etc. Those who have the guest card may use the offers at a reduced rate. The digital guest card serves as the key and for billing.
Examples of Enthusiastic Performance
Personalised offers Real-time recommendations are automatically sent to guests via the guest card, encouraging them to adopt more climate-friendly behaviour. An algorithm then “learns” what guests respond to, creating increasingly personalized offers.
Playfully conquer the destination Exciting themed routes are stored in the digital guest map. The individual points of the route are conquered by bicycle. The proof runs via GPS tracking of the bike. This digital scavenger hunt combines sustainable behaviour, edutainment and gamification.
Collecting points Those who use sustainable mobility services such as public transport or cycling are rewarded with digital coins. They can then be used as an additional discount at leisure facilities.
A digital destination comprises three levels: Digital equipment, data infrastructure and digital applications.
A data infrastructure is comparable to a good signage concept: it provides guests with digital orientation.
The digital touchpoints in sum decide the overall experience of the guests.
A digital guest card can be a master key for guests on holiday.
A digital guest card can be used as a strategic element for the management of guests and service providers alike.
The establishment of a digital infrastructure can become a central task for DMOs in the future.
The DMO takes on the role of a know-how carrier, network node and impulse generator and establishes a digital mindset in the region.
Eric Horster ist Professor an der Fachhochschule Westküste im Bachelor- und Masterstudiengang International Tourism Management (ITM) mit den Schwerpunktfächern Digitalisierung im Tourismus und Hospitality Management. Er ist Mitglied des dortigen Instituts für Management und Tourismus (IMT).
Elias Kärle ist Wissenschaftler an der Universität Innsbruck. In seiner Forschung beschäftigt er sich mit Knowledge Graphs, Linked Data und Ontologien. Als Vortragender referiert er meist zur Anwendung und Verbreitung semantischer Technologien im Tourismus.