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5G & Smart Tourism: a match made in heaven?

  • 6 minute read
  • Published by Miss Lucy Woods on 18 Oct 2018
  • Last modified 22 Oct 2018
There is no doubt that Smart Tourism is a fun and engaging “front door” for wider 5G engagement but, first, let’s clarify what we mean by the term.

IGI Global describes a smart tourism destination as being one that responds to the requirements of the present global and mobile elites by facilitating access to tourism and hospitality products, services, spaces and experiences through ICT-based tools and where a healthy social and cultural environment can be found through a focus on the city’s social and human capital.

It's worth pointing out too, that the adoption of smart tourism technologies has been around for some years now. It’s certainly not novel. Cloud computing, big data, mobile apps, location-based services, geo-tag services, beacon technology, virtual reality, augmented reality, and social networking services are all cutting-edge examples of smart technologies enhancing the tourism experiences and services (Wang et al., 2012). Tourism bodies like VisitScotland and VisitLondon are acknowledging the importance of technology:

Bring cultural content to life digitally. By using existing media, multiple language social media channels and new technologies such as virtual reality, there is an opportunity to broaden the reach of London’s culture, promote it to international audiences and create calls to action [Tourism vision from VisitLondon’s Strategy]

Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing & Digital, VisitScotland commented, “The way visitors access information has changed significantly and we need to reflect that through new initiatives to reach more people with personalised information so they stay longer, spend more and grow the visitor economy. Our model for information provision is moving from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘bricks and clicks', providing high quality information to visitors where they want it, when they want it."

The last visitor survey highlighted that increasingly visitors want to use their mobiles whilst they are on holiday to help them plan their trip and make the most of their break, so we are building our content with this in mind. In addition, we are creating more immersive content that uses VR and AR technology which will further enhance their visitor experience.

IntechnologyWiFi provide blanket public WiFi coverage in towns and cities across the UK, including the entire City Centre of Edinburgh. This is part of their Connected City Platform which includes the Citi-Wise city guide app (read more here).

Phil Dunseath, IntechnologyWiFi Marketing Manager, said "We’ve had great feedback from users of Citi-Wise, they really appreciate curated content and love being able to find those “hidden gems” they might not have otherwise discovered. Local businesses benefit too as it helps drive up footfall and revenue."

So, what can 5G bring to the table?

Dr Alex Connock, UK5G Advisory Board Member and a specialist in the use of digital video for commercial purposes with roles at Oxford and Salford universities, comments on the impact of mixed reality (MR) technology on tourism;

“Not only is the addition of AR and even VR likely to drive user engagement from tourists across the region, but using the enhanced bandwidth offered by 5G will itself drive traction. I made a significant study of video optimisation for e-commerce which found that the mere addition of video to a proposition will increase engagement and even click-to-buy. The same will apply to video streamed around tourist destinations. Handy findings included the fact that you can tag multiple products and destinations in the same video and users will respond more positively, and that the more subtle you make the ‘sell’, the better."

Video, VR and AR that takes the form of entertaining ‘branded content’ about destinations is likely to do best.

Ericsson carried out merged reality research last year which revealed some interesting findings:

  • 25% of early adopters believe that in a year from now, we will be exploring destinations through AR-enabled information and maps overlaid onto our physical environment
  • tourism and live-streaming are all everyday social activities that early adopters expect to hit mainstream in VR within the next one to three years

Last year also, Rostelecom and Ericsson announced a 5G trial would take place at the State Hermitage Museum, one of the world's most prominent art museums, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. We will spotlight this particular use case and update you in a future blog. 

Professor Dimitrios Buhalis Head of Department of Tourism and Hospitality and Director of eTourism Lab at Bournemouth University said:

5G will provide the wireless infrastructure for the Internet of Things and Smart Tourism to emerge. Supporting interconnectivity and interoperability, 5G will enable travellers to connect at high speeds with tourism organisations that support the co-creation of memorable experiences.

He continues,"research at Bournemouth University demonstrates that 5G will facilitate the development of a range of innovative services and will empower cocreation based on contextual information in real time.“

The Smart Tourism 5G Project

Earlier this year, the West of England Combined Authority won a major Government tender to lead on a 5G Smart Tourism Testbed supported by companies with expertise across a range of sectors including government, academia, digital & broadcasting.

All DCMS funded testbed and programmes are intended to provide many opportunities including contribution to economic development in local economies. And in the case of Smart Tourism, which is being piloted in one of West of England’s ‘sweet spots’, the contributions tourism bring are unwavering:

  • Internationally significant World Heritage attractions
  • 28 million day visitors and 3 million overnight stays
  • Tourism sector employs 55,000 people
  • Visitors contribute c.£2 billion to the region’s GVA
  • Bristol & Bath is the “most significant and fastest growing digital cluster outside of London”
  • The high tech sector supports 36,000 jobs
  • High-tech contributes £1.7 billion to the region’s GVA

Source: Smart Tourism UK5G project

Five months in and there is healthy progress being made and we will share some exciting news about their use cases and what this project will mean for the West of England region and the tourism sector in a future blog.

We are always looking for 5G related insight so if you’d like to partner on a blog, please email news@uk5g.org


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