Tourism academic Haley Stainton argues there are five key methods to implementing a smart tourism experience: smart accessibility options, smart sustainability initiatives, smart information sharing, smart research and management tools and smart tourist experiences like augmented and virtual reality.
Few destinations have any or all of these building blocks, leaving opportunities to deliver great experiences on the table. Increasingly, luxury travelers don’t want a typical island experience where they only sit on a beach all day. Social media and customer reviews have demonstrated how people experience destinations and how they make information on what to see and do more accessible, often appearing right in social media feeds. They want variety of activities, both land and sea-based. Adventure and safari and culinary travel and shopping are the most popular types of luxury trips and will remain so through at least 2027, the Allied Market Research report found.
Traditional luxury-focused destinations like the Maldives essentially offer the same experience day after day with a focus on water and beach-related activities. The Middle East is also known for its luxury products, like Dubai’s Al Maha resort which is geared towards bespoke experiences. But many destinations throughout the region offer cookie cutter experiences that are too pricey for their low level of personalization, and technology isn’t being used to automate things that improve the experience like bag transport or booking activities.
New destinations like Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project are taking all the different luxury products and experiences the Middle East offers and bringing them to one location while creating bespoke experiences elevated by digital. Sustainability will be the hallmark of the destination, with 100 percent of its energy coming from solar and wind, and 75 percent of buildings being LEED certified. The destination will be run by a smart destination management system that supports a range of personalized services and manages visitor flow to prevent overcrowding and delays.
The Red Sea carefully considers what the traveler experience should look and feel like, and then identifies technologies that bring that experience to life. Using an automated bespoke approach could also enhance sustainability efforts by making operations like housekeeping more sustainable and anticipate what travelers want, when they want it.
One&Only Resorts is a great comparison of the luxury and personalization that Red Sea will offer and the kind of land and sea experiences that will be available. In contrast, however, Red Sea will use digital to inform what kinds of experiences are offered and who they’re offered to while connecting travelers to a one-stop shop, Amazon-like marketplace to have a single transaction scenario that luxury customers are accustomed to.