Imagine traveling to a city where all tourist offers are available on a application and in your mother tongue Language. where you don’t need waiting line for the galleries because the installations can be imagined using your smartphone. Or where virtual reality (VR) reconstructions of historical events bring life to heritage sites.
Smart cities are redefining tourism.
Two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions have changed the way we experience the world. Virtual tours helped us explore destinations from the comfort of our couches, and Business trip decreased as video calls took over.
Now borders have reopened, countries are capitalizing on this technology to attract tourists and improve their experiences.
The term ‘smart city‘ might make you think of robots walk the streets, steal cars crossing the sky or control public services by artificial intelligence. The reality is slightly different, but no less exciting.
To be a smart city is to stand out in accessibility, sustainabilitydigitization, creativity and protection of cultural heritage.
DenmarkThe capital has led the way on this even before the pandemic. The Copenhagen Visitor Service invites tourists to plan their itineraries using touchscreen guides, robots and VR glasses, while an application disseminates information and collects data to help improve the service.
Hoping to join those ranks, destinations like Zagreb in Croatia and Pafos in Cyprus spare no effort. They use technologies such as augmented reality (AR) to create virtual experiences usually reserved for the gaming industry.
These initiatives have seen the two cities shortlisted for the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2023, a competition that rewards the outstanding achievements of European cities as tourist destinations.
AR turns Zagreb into a giant virtual art exhibition
Last month, the Zagreb Tourist Board teamed up with tech company Equinox to transform the capital of Croatia in a giant virtual art exhibition, called Art Future.
Visitors were asked to download the Equinox XR app to their phone. Once they reached the location of a particular “installation”, they could open their camera on the app and the masterpieces has been overlaid in AR – a familiar experience for all Pokémon GO players out there.
“Augmented reality is a technology that allows people to experience virtual content, rooted in the real world around them”, explains Ivan Voras, founder of Equinox and technical director of the exhibition.
“It can be achieved through special hardware like glasses, but it’s much more effective and is currently reaching a wider audience to do so via mobile phones.”
Nineteen contemporary artists, animators and 3D modelers from around the world presented their “rental art” – virtual art in real places – at Art Future.
“Visitors and locals [could] see works of art created by great international artists in almost every square or park in the city,” says Ivan. The themes spanned the polarizing world of NFTthe healing power of art and design solutions global warming.
It was not the first time that Equinox had teamed up with the Zagreb Tourist Board for a forward-looking exhibition. At Christmas, they placed animated and interactive gift boxes around town for people to find.
Both projects created digital exhibits firmly rooted in the real world – and demonstrated how technology can be used to improve sightseeing attractions without the need for major infrastructure.
Paphos brings its legendary heritage sites to life with your smartphone
Paphos to the southwest Cyprus is a popular tourist destination. The coastal town is known as the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite, and its ancient remains have earned her Unesco World Heritage status.
Take advantage of the city mythical Futuristically past, the Paphos Tourist Board has developed an app that allows users to bring its storied history to life.
The Birthplace of Aphrodite app interacts with three different scenes from the myth.
“By pointing your device at various locations on the beachthe app lets you experience an animated Aphrodite in a real environment,” says Nasos Hadjigeorgiou, head of the Paphos Regional Tourism Board.
Users can see Aphrodite rising from waves as she was born or spy on her relaxing on the beach in augmented reality.
“The main reason we use AR is to convert the intangible part of the experience into tangible, providing digital information and interaction in a real environment,” says Nasos.
Soon, Culture enthusiasts interested in learning more about the myth of Aphrodite will have a new tool at their service.
“We are in the final stages of developing a comprehensive Aphrodite mythos app. This will include information and locations related to the goddess’ birth and life,” Nasos explains.
Besides this new app, the Paphos Tourist Board has big plans for its clever tourism project.
“We are also investing heavily in smart signs, converting static signs into interactive signs [ones]Nasos explains. This will bring 360 degree tours, audio guides in several languagesvideos and photos at visitors’ fingertips.
What can travelers expect from smart destinations in the future?
As the tourism continues to embrace technology, smart destinations are likely to become the norm.
It can materialize in thousands of ways, creating smoother, more memorable and personalized experiences for tourists.
Museums will become more interactive, Landmarks could be digitally overlaid with photos and historical information, and tourists could see how busy the attractions are in real time so they can plan their visits accordingly.
Tourist offices will leverage technology in ever more creative ways, blurring the lines between digital and physical worlds. For example, visit Sweden recently launched ‘Spellbound by Sweden’, a folklore-filled audiobook whose ending can only be heard when you are physically present in a Swedish forest.
There is still a huge gap to be bridged between tradition destination and the smart cities we want to visit. But the progress we are seeing in tourism is already giving us a taste of what travel in the world will be like. coming.