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Smart Tourism in Practice: The EU Initiative “European Capitals of Smart Tourism”

Le tourisme intelligent en pratique : l’initiative de l’UE « capitales européennes du tourisme intelligent »
Marios Sotiriadis


Le concept de ville intelligente est appliqué aux zones urbaines et vise à améliorer la qualité de l'expérience des touristes, ainsi que la vie des résidents grâce à des technologies intelligentes. Le tourisme intelligent (TI) joue un rôle essentiel dans le développement des villes intelligentes. C'est pourquoi, au cours des cinq dernières années, dans le contexte récent et actuel (crise sanitaire), les innovations et les initiatives se multiplient dans le domaine du TI. Le TI est un domaine de recherche/étude émergent ; par conséquent, les auteurs et les chercheurs n'ont élaboré que peu d'analyses et d'études de cas. Cette étude de cas vise à décrire et à mettre en évidence les meilleures pratiques dans le cadre de cette initiative de l'UE, en mettant l'accent sur le domaine spécifique "Patrimoine culturel et créativité".

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1Typically, tourism is one of the major components of economic growth for communities worldwide, but the pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard. The industry has been forced to find new ways to come back from this setback stronger. Right now, more than ever, it is important for the tourism and travel industry to think differently and embrace innovation in preparation for the inevitable coming back of visitors. Smart tourism (ST) is one of the cutting-edge technology applications that are shaping the current and future landscape. ST refers to the burgeoning phenomenon of the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for developing innovative tools and approaches to improve tourism (Ye, Ye & Law, 2020). The principles of ST lie at enhancing tourism experiences, improve the efficiency of resource management, maximize destination/city competitiveness with an emphasis on sustainable aspects (Femenia-Serra & Neuhofer, 2018; Gretzel, Zhong, Koo, 2016). Therefore, the advancement of ICTs motivates tourism destinations and suppliers to leverage smart technologies to optimize their decision-making in business planning and enhance the tourism experience (Gretzel, Reino, Kopera & Koo, 2015; Zhang & Yang, 2016).

2The appropriate adoption and adequate use of management methods and tools significantly contribute to achieving sustainable management of tourism resources and assets, which constitutes one of the main aims of smartness (Gretzel, Sigala, Xiang & Koo, 2016; Femenia-Serra, Perles-Ribes & Ivars-Baidal, 2019; Sotiriadis, 2020). Gretzel et al. (2016) defines ST destination as an innovative tourist destination, built on an infrastructure of state-of-the-art technology guaranteeing the sustainable development of tourist zones, accessible to everyone, which facilitates the visitor’s interaction with and integration into his or her surroundings, increases the quality of the experience at the destination, and improves residents’ quality of life, with a clear focus on efficiency, sustainability and experience enrichment (p. 181). It is believed that the core components of smartness are ICTs, leadership, innovation and social capital supported by human capital (Boes, Buhalis, and Inversini, 2016). Although ICT is a critical enabler for smart tourism destinations, it is insufficient on its own to introduce smartness. The combination of hard and soft smartness components within a service-dominant logic ecosystem structure holds the potential for sustained competitive advantage and enhancement of quality of life of both residents and tourists in smart tourism destinations (Boes et al. 2016).

3Destinations and businesses from around the globe are collaborating to provide smart experiences to tourists (Gretzel, Reino, Kopera and Koo, 2015; Femenia-Serra, Perles-Ribes, and Ivars-Baidal, 2019). For instance, in 2019 European Union has launched a brand-new initiative ‘European Capital of Smart Tourism’. This initiative rewards European cities and gives them the opportunity to share their exemplary practices as smart tourism destinations.

4Smart city concept is applied to urban areas and aims to increase the quality of tourists’ experience, as well as the residents’ lives through smart technologies. ST plays a vital role in the development of smart cities. That is why, over the last five years, within recent and current (health crisis), innovations and initiatives are on the rise in the field of ST. ST is an emerging research/study domain; consequently, authors and researchers elaborated only few analyses and case studies. This case study aims to outline and highlight the best practices within this EU initiative with a special emphasis on the specific domain “Cultural Heritage and Creativity”.

1. The EU Initiative “European Capitals of Smart Tourism”

5Founded in 2019, the European Capital of Smart Tourism is an initiative that aims to raise awareness about smart tourism tools, measures, and projects implemented in cities across four categories: sustainability, accessibility, digitalization, and cultural heritage and creativity. According to the European Capital of Smart tourism Initiative, a smart tourism destination is: “A destination facilitating access to tourism and hospitality products, services, spaces, and experiences through ICT-based tools. It is a healthy social and cultural environment, which can be found through a focus on the city’s social and human capital. It also implements innovative, intelligent solutions and fosters the development of entrepreneurial businesses and their interconnectedness.” (EU, 2019).

6It is worth noticing that prerequisites to and a key element of the smartness paradigm are a smart governance and a constant interaction between enterprises, local administrations, tourists and residents. Smart governance refers to the efficiency of public services of a smart city and their improvement through innovations without forgetting the democratic inclusiveness of its residents (Lanquar, 2020).

7In 2018, the European Commission launched a first EU-wide competition for the European Capital of Smart Tourism. 38 cities from 19 EU Member States submitted their applications to compete for the 2019 European Capital of Smart Tourism title. Helsinki (Finland) and Lyon (France) won the competition and were the 2019 European Capitals of Smart Tourism. In 2019, the competition for the 2020 European Capitals of Smart Tourism was launched and 35 cities from 17 EU Member States submitted their applications. Gothenburg (Sweden) and Málaga (Spain) won the 2020 European Capital of Smart Tourism titles. There are nine cities in Europe that have already been praised by the European Capital of Smart Tourism Initiative for their smart approach to tourism (EU, 2020).

1.1. The four categories of the competition “Making tourism smart”

8For the purpose of the European Capital of Smart Tourism competition, the cities were invited to describe and share their innovative projects, ideas and initiatives implemented under each of the four award categories - Accessibility, Digitalization, Sustainability, Creativity & Cultural heritage - which helped them to improve their profile as a tourism destination.

Figure 1: The 4 categories of the “Making tourism smart”

Figure 1: The 4 categories of the “Making tourism smart”

Source: EU, 2020

9As a guidance, the four categories are described as follows (EU, 2019). Accessibility: Being accessible means to be easily reachable through different modes of transport and with a strong transport system in and around the city. What does the infrastructure look like and how accessible is the city – by car, train, plane, and bike? Apart from the infrastructure itself, how can you make tourism offers barrier-free, physically and psychologically? Accessibility does not only entail being a barrier-free destination, it also encompasses services that are multilingual and, for example, digitally available to all tourists or visitors – regardless of age, cultural background or any physical disability.

10Sustainability: Being sustainable does not only mean to manage and protect your natural resources as a city, but to reduce seasonality and include the local community. What opportunities does a city have to preserve and enhance the natural environment and resources while maintaining economic and socio-cultural development in a balanced way? How are natural resources (including innovative environmentally friendly measures) managed in a tourism destination and are there resource-efficiency measures implemented, and actions aimed at combating or adapting to climate change? How can cities as tourism destinations contribute to local employment and a diversification of local economies?

11Digitalization: Digital tourism means offering innovative tourism and hospitality information, products, services, spaces and experiences adapted to the needs of the consumers through ICT-based solutions and digital tools. It is about providing digital information on destinations, attractions and tourism offerings as well as information on public transport and making attractions and accommodation digitally accessible. Is the city supporting tourism businesses in the development and use of digital skills and tools? How does the city support digitalization of tourism services?

12Cultural Heritage & Creativity: The focus on cultural heritage and creativity means protecting and capitalizing on the local heritage as well as cultural and creative assets for the benefit of the destination, the industry and tourists. Is the city making resourceful use of its cultural heritage and creative industries for an enriched tourism experience? What actions are implemented to render recognition and to incorporate the tangible and intangible heritage of art, history and culture in its center and surroundings, in the enhanced tourism offer? How is cultural heritage and creativity used to attract tourists and exploit synergies between tourism and cultural and creative industries?

1.2. The Winners: Capitals of Smart Tourism

13Helsinki (European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019): The city’s smart public transport system enjoyed a rise in user satisfaction since 2017. An ‘Uber boat’ system is under consideration and driverless buses started been used. The multilingual service ‘Helsinki Helpers’ are stationed at main attractions to offer assistance. Visitors will see first-hand some of the 143 measures in place to help Helsinki become carbon neutral by 2035. The Helsinki Road Map prevents overcrowding and supports local business as it guides tourists around the city, while 75% of hotel rooms are certified environmentally friendly. The city is also increasing the share of cycling, walking, and electric cars and trains. Powered by its open approach to public data – available free for all since 2009 – Helsinki has become a hotbed of software innovation. One of the major successes is the website, an ad-free service platform featuring recommendations from the locals, permanent residents.

14Lyon (European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2019): Lyon has put its accessibility plan at the center of urban life. Visitors with disabilities and reduced mobility can move around the city with complete autonomy, taking advantage of a completely adapted transport network and smart signage. Lyon’s museums offer adapted tours — those with hearing impairments are allowed to touch works of art — and many restaurants provide speaking menus. In 2019, 40,000 visitors to the city experienced the benefits of the Lyon City Card, which provides users with free public transport, entrance to 23 museums and other attractions, discounts, and more. In the future, visitors will be able to take advantage of the ONLYLYON Experience, receiving live geo-located tourist information direct to their smartphones to reduce congestion.

15Málaga (European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 and winner of the European Capital of Smart Tourism Award 2019 in the category of Accessibility). Málaga has been incorporating the concepts of sustainability, innovation, and culture into their strategic plans for many years. There is a constant exchange between visitors and the government’s tourism services so that Málaga can do more to meet the needs of visitors. In terms of sustainability, Málaga works in all spheres – it has installed public LED lighting, offers over 20 bike hire stations, and created bike lanes that now add up to over 40km. The city has installed smart watering systems for parks and gardens in order to save water and has introduced an Air Quality Sectoral Plan to reduce air pollution, monitor pollen levels, and improve noise quality. The city has a fully-adapted bus network and vast pedestrian spaces. Digitalization forms an essential part of the tourism experience in Málaga too. The city successfully implemented the plan “City of Museums” encompassing 30 museums.

16Gothenburg (European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 and winner of the European Capital of Smart Tourism Award 2020 in the category of Sustainability). Gothenburg has implemented far-reaching measures, to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the city. The recently released Smart Map encourages citizen engagement by gathering all the places you can rent, exchange, borrow, share, give and get in Gothenburg. The city bases 60% of its district heating on waste/recycled heat. The city was a pioneer in issuing green bonds and was one of the first places to set consumption-based emission targets. 92% of the city’s hotels and 100% of meeting facilities are now environmentally certified and events that take place in the city benefit from the “Event Impact Calculator”, a tool that has come as a result of local tech and science partnerships that forecasts potential environmental impacts and supports organizers to value events from an economic, social and environmental point of view. That is why Gothenburg has been named the world’s most sustainable destination, by the Global Destination Sustainability Index.

17Copenhagen (winner of the European Capital of Smart Tourism Award 2019 in the category of Digitalization).  Copenhagen was named for this title because of the following reasons: On arrival in the city, the innovative Copenhagen Visitor Service is the first point of call, where tourists can grasp everything, the city has to offer, through moving posters, robotics, or even by putting on a pair of VR goggles and experiencing the city’s best attractions through the eyes of a couple, locals, a family or seniors. Once tourists leave the visitor service they can make use of the city’s app, which guides users between attractions. Within the app, a tracking module that asks users for consent before activation gathers data so that the authorities can better understand movement patterns both around the city and at attractions on the outskirts. The data that is collected is helping to continually improve services.

2. Best practices in European Union (Years 2019 and 2020)

18This section outlines in a synoptic way a selection of best practices in the category “Cultural Heritage and Creativity”. The choice of this category/field is based on the specific reason that, the future competition in tourism and travel will take place in the field of heritage, tangible and intangible elements of resources and assets of cities and destinations. First, we can present the winner in this category. Linz (European Capital of Smart Tourism Award 2019 in the category of Cultural Heritage & Creativity): Linz boasts 43 galleries and exhibition rooms and 13 cultural centers, the most prestigious of which are located on the Kulturmeile (culture mile), a popular route for tourists that traces the bending Donau river. Whilst these spaces boast world-class collections, art in Linz isn’t just confined to galleries. Innovative formats such as Höhenrausch (loosely translated as “high jinks”), an art exhibition on the rooftops, are typical of the city’s creative approach. In addition to the art on display, Höhenrausch visitors will also be able to glimpse signs of Linz’s impressive industrial heritage. Linzers are conscious of incorporating this aspect of history into the city’s cultural repertoire: the Voestalpine Stahlwelt museum pays homage to the steel industry that has been the backbone of Linz’s economy for almost a century; the Tabakfabrik is now a hub for the creative industry and the Mural Harbour is an industrial port turned blank canvas for graffiti artists from around the world.

Table 1: Best Practices in Cultural Heritage and Creativity



1 Reviving traditions and cultural heritage sustainably

Reinventing sauna culture; Helsinki 

Celebrating one’s architecture; Nantes; Poznań

The ‘Bouchons Lyonnais’ quality label; Lyon 

Repositioning Málaga as the ‘city of museums’; Málaga 

Traditional handcraft and events; Tallinn 

The traboules agreement; Lyon 

The power of art in public spaces; Breda, Linz, Lyon; Karlsruhe 

A city full of art: The artistic marvels of Nantes; Nantes 

Smart tourist trails; Málaga

2 Communal infrastructures

Public library; Helsinki

Urban re-development; Arnhem

The ́Library under the Treetops ́; Ljubljana 

Collaboration of local creative players; Copenhagen; Gothenburg; Torino 

Black Nights Film Festival; Tallinn

Porta Posnania – participatory educational centre; Poznań 

‘Culture in Karlsruhe’ – collaboration across all sectors; Karlsruhe 

Sleep in Space Capsules; Zagreb 

Quirky tours; Klaipeda 

Creative Events; Breda; Karlsruhe; Klagenfurt; Sibiu 

3 Usage of cultural heritage for new creativity

Design Officer / District / Week; Helsinki 

Generating value from tourists; Copenhagen 

The Ramón Llull Initiative 2030; Palma 

The Festival of Lights; Lyon 

A gourmet agenda for the region; Lyon 

‘Höhenrausch’ – art above the rooftops; Linz 

Old becomes New; Breda; Karlsruhe; Varna; Zabrze 

Wicker Toboggans Sledges; Funchal

Source: European Commission (2020) Compendium of Best Practices “2019 & 2020 European Capital of Smart Tourism competitions”, pp. 5-6.

19Hereafter are outlined 15 exemplary practices, five in each sub-category.

2.1. Reviving traditions and cultural heritage sustainably

20Reinventing sauna culture, Helsinki: Sauna bathing is an essential part of Finnish culture and there are only a couple of public ones remaining in Helsinki. To strengthen the sense of community and to keep this important part of Finland alive, also for tourists, Finland is building new – sustainable - saunas, one of them being Löyly sauna. Löyly is heated with district heating and its electricity is produced with certified solar and wind power. The building’s restaurant serves organic food and sustainably caught fish. The sauna is the first FSC-certified building in Finland FSC’s (Forest Stewardship Council) certificate proves that wood material comes from responsibly managed forests. Find out more at:

21The ‘Bouchons Lyonnais’ quality label, Lyon: In addition to its UNESCO heritage, Lyon also boasts its exceptional intangible cultural heritage in terms of its gastronomy, particularly with its ‘Bouchons Lyonnais’ label. Bouchons are convivial and authentic restaurants located in Lyon, serving local gourmet dishes that perpetuate a culinary tradition inherited over many centuries and embody the art of gracious living ‘à la française’. Sitting down to enjoy a meal in a Bouchon is an essential part of your trip to Lyon, even when your stay is short. French and foreign tourists alike appreciate the friendly atmosphere of these family-owned eateries and their great value for money. Find out more about Bouchons Lyonnais at:​en/​

22Repositioning Málaga as the ‘city of museums’, Málaga: To diversify tourism streams from traditional beach goers, Malaga has invested heavily in new art galleries and museums, increasing exhibition space in the city from 400 m2 to 35,000 m2 in just two decades. Thanks to this transformation strategy, Malaga won the ‘Tourism with Identity Prize’ and is now known as the city ‘where art lives’. For example, the refurbishment of an old tobacco factory and market building for cultural purposes has regenerated the surrounding areas. Today, museums are the main activity for visitors. Find out more at:​en/​tourist-resources/​

23Traditional handcraft and events, Tallinn: The Estonian Folk Art and Craft Union was founded in 1929 and is a non-profit organization that connects regional folk art, craft organizations and craftspeople. It aims to value, preserve, and develop Estonian handicraft traditions and to treasure their regional characteristics. The Union represents craftspeople and folk organizations in Estonia and abroad, holds important handicraft events in Estonia and issues the label ´Certified Estonian Artisanal Craft´. They also offer craft making courses in woodblock printing, national beaded necklaces and cotton fabric necklaces. In cooperation with, a map that introduces the Estonian handicraft is published in four languages. Find out more at:​en/​

24The power of art in public spaces: ‘Europe’s biggest graffiti gallery’, Linz: Graffiti in public spaces used to be dismissed as vandalism, and artists hardly had any chance to pursue their creativity legally. But since the UK artist Banksy achieved international recognition for his work, graffiti art has seen a massive shift in attitudes: a broader appreciation for street art led to more buildings and areas being legalized for use by artists. ´Europe’s biggest graffiti gallery’, measuring 2,500 m2 and known as the ‘Mural Harbor’, can be found in Linz. The Mural Harbor project brightens up the greyish port buildings and adds another interesting and surprising dimension to the city’s cultural offer. Artists from 25 countries, including the United States, Taiwan and South Korea, have painted more than 100 works of graffiti. In addition to providing an enhanced tourist experience, the area also helps to draw guests away from tourist hotspots in the city center. This has helped to revive different areas of the city and ensured this aspect of Linz’s industrial heritage has a long-term future. Find out more at:​en/​leisure/​discover

2.2. Communal infrastructures

25Collaboration of local creative players, Copenhagen: In 2018, Wonderful Copenhagen worked with the Maritime Museum of Denmark to test virtual reality technology to enrich the architectural experience. Furthermore, together with the National Museum of Denmark, Wonderful Copenhagen developed a chatbot to improve the experience of visitors and make the National Museum more open for communication. In 2016, the Tourism + Culture Lab facilitated a makeover of the English website of the Danish Architecture Centre, which many international tourists visit to learn more about the city’s architecture. The makeover simplified the structure to increase accessibility to international users and displayed relevant information more visibly, also on Facebook. Following this make-over, the site visits increased (on sub sites targeted to tourists) by 165% and there was an increase in sales of guided English tours in the city by 41% compared to the previous year. Find out more about the DAC website at:​en/​

26Collaboration of local creative players. Meet the Locals, Gothenburg: ‘Meet the Locals’ connects visitors with locals and introduces the visitor to Gothenburg’s daily life and the Swedish lifestyle, thereby personalizing the visitor’s trip through local perspective. Sharing is the core of ‘Meet the Locals’. Locals and visitors can meet in different forms, for example through a car-sharing service, a tour of the local sights, sharing leftover fruit from their garden for someone else to enjoy, Swedish designers making their great clothes available for hire or staying at a local’s house to experience what a home in Gothenburg can look like. ‘Meet the Locals’ concept of sharing includes individuals, who share their hobbies or interests, but also community initiatives, where resources can be used efficiently through sharing and borrowing instead of buying. The West Sweden Tourist Board gathered organizations, apps, Facebook groups and websites – all sharing a common goal - to make tourists and locals meet in various forms. Find out more at:​en/​

27Porta Posnania – participatory educational center, Poznan: The Porta Posnania is a stunning minimalistic building, very often referred to as a museum. It is however more of an educational centre, which allows for an interdisciplinary approach to local history. Built on the city island, where the Warta River splits into two, Porta Posnania was constructed within the connecting nature project, funded by the Horizon 2020 EU programme. The predominant idea was to create a multifunctional space, using cultural and natural resources, to enrich Poznan’s cultural capital while protecting the green belt surrounding the city river. Today, the Porta Posnania is the door that opens up the city’s past and allows people to access the content they are interested in. Furthermore, the building is barrier-free and provides help to those with disabilities. Porta Posnania attracts its visitors with a multimedia display, educational workshops, cultural events and tours. Find out more at:​en/​r/​warto-zobaczyc/​brama-poznania-otwarta

28Sleep in Space Capsules, Zagreb: The Subspace Hostel in Zagreb gives its visitors the chance to sleep in time capsules instead of in classic rooms, with painted ceilings and walls of the night sky. The hostel opened in 2016 and offers 20 fully equipped capsules, all ventilated, with mirrors and a safe for valuables. The Subspace Hostel won the International Hospitality Award for the best newly opened hostel in Eastern and Central Europe. Find out more here. Find out more at:​?page_id=85

29Creative Events: Forest Festival, Klagenfurt: Klagenfurt organized the largest European art project in a public space in 2019, the ‘For Forest Festival’. The festival brought almost 300 trees to the city’s football stadium, covering the entire field, to draw attention to the tension between humankind and nature. The installation draws on people’s emotions, seeing something familiar, yet placed in an entirely different context. It is also meant as a warning: One day, people might have to admire nature in specially assigned places, as it is already the case with zoo animals. Almost 200,000 visitors from all over the world came to the stadium and discussed environmental topics, with many ideas emerging. An extensive supporting programme accompanied the installation to address the ecological background of the project critically. The stadium was open to visitors from day to night and the entrance was free. Find out more at:​en/​

2.3. Usage of Cultural Heritage for Creativity

30Design Officer/District/Week, Helsinki: The annual Helsinki Design Week is the largest design festival in the Nordic countries, bringing together creative people in the center of Finland’s capital. It contains about 250 events around fashion, architecture and urban culture and takes place in a variety of places throughout the city, from museums to markets, to seminar halls and secret shops. It presents new faces and phenomena in design and offers citizens a forum to participate in developing their town. Furthermore, Helsinki has its very own Design District in the city centre, a hub of creativity, with boutiques, galleries, workshops, museums and design agencies. Helsinki, one of the UNESCO Cities of Design, also appointed its own Chief Design Officer in 2016, thereby being the first capital in the world to do so. Find out more at: and at:​en/​

31Generating value from tourists, Copenhagen: In their 2020 strategy, Wonderful Copenhagen, the city’s official tourism organization, puts a strategic focus on ‘once attracted, twice valued’ – this means that the city wants to shift its focus from primarily attracting tourists to also generating more value from the tourists already attracted. Through insights derived from the movement of visitors and consumption patterns, the city identifies weak points and removes them in order to improve the tourist’s satisfaction and makes them return and recommend Copenhagen to others. One example is the Tourism + Culture Lab initiative, where Wonderful Copenhagen and cultural institutions work together to identify synergies between tourism and culture. For example, in 2018 the initiative explored the commercial potential of international tourism, sharing advice on how to create and manage a museum store that appeals to international visitors. Find out more about the 2020 strategy at:​

  • A gourmet agenda for the region, Lyon: The Tourist Information Office in Lyon plays an essential part in promoting the city when it comes to gastronomy. Here, Lyon has some very real and undisputed assets: 4,000 restaurants, 19 of which share a total of 25 stars, and the Rue du Boeuf, the street with the most star-rated restaurants in France. The Tourism Information Office deployed a new tool entitled ‘C’est Lyon qui Régale’ to promote all its gastronomy-related events. This event-agenda already lists over 200 gourmet events divided up into five different sections: typical local markets, cookery workshops, food-tasting courses, gourmet and of course festive events. ‘C’est Lyon qui Régale’ aims to consolidate Lyon’s reputation as a city devoted to gastronomy and give rise to new projects. Find out more at:​c-est-lyon-qui-regale

  • ‘Höhenrausch’ – art above the rooftops, Linz: Since Linz became the European Capital of Culture in 2009, many new cultural formats have been developed. One of them is the ‘Höhenrausch’ exhibition, which takes place every summer on the roofs of a high car park, in the Upper Austrian Culture Quarter and in church towers. Höhenrausch – art above the rooftops of Linz – is an art and cultural exhibition that was developed in 2009 and is regarded as one of the most successful and sustainable offers of Linz. Since its opening, one million visitors have come to see the view over the rooftops of Linz. The basic idea of the Höhenrausch art project is to show Linz from a different, completely unfamiliar perspective and to combine art and fun. Höhenrausch fascinates both tourists – one in ten visitors travel from abroad – and locals. It implicitly creates a seduction to art because it remains casual and avoids creating an exclusive ‘educated middleclass’ atmosphere and thus attracts people who might not necessarily visit museums. Höhenrausch therefore has revolutionized the ways in which art can be presented. The creation of Höhenrausch is all thanks to Linz being elected the 2009 European Capital of Culture. Now, 10 years later, the project is one of the outstanding examples of how such an annual festival initiative can generate a lasting impact, even at the European level. Find out more at:​

  • Old becomes New: Shining a new light on old landmarks, Varna: Varna has celebrated two of its oldest landmarks, by adding modern installations. Evening visitors to the Aladzha rock monastery now have the opportunity to observe nightly light and sound shows on the walls of the famous monument. The show is based on the book “Legends of Aladzha monastery” by Valeri Kinov. Additionally, a stage has been constructed at the famous Roman baths and the old landmark is now home to the yearly theatre festival, which takes place during the summer months. Find out more at:​varna/​en/​about/​

Concluding remarks

32From the above presentation of the projects and initiatives crafted, elaborated on and implemented in various cities around Europe, within the framework of the EU Initiative, we can see that it is a very promising program encompassing numerous ideas and endeavors. The range and diversity are unlimited. European cities were offered the opportunity to share their exemplary practices as smart tourism destinations and cities are implementing and showcasing the most outstanding measures.

33We have seen some exemplary practices/projects by cities as tourism destinations in implementing innovative and intelligent solutions in various fields/domains, which helped them to improve their profile and increase their appeal/attractiveness as a tourism destination.

34This case study aimed to present a selection of their innovative projects, ideas and initiatives implemented. It illustrates a selection of best practices in the category “Cultural Heritage and Creativity”.

35It is worth pointing out that, the best practices outlined in this case study are solely a selection, maybe arbitrary, and by no means exhaustive. It aimed to demonstrate in a practical/implementable way specific cases, concrete actions and solutions implemented.

36What lessons could cities/destinations take from this experience? Here are the main takeaways for industry practitioners, managers and marketers of smart cities and destinations alike:

  • Be open to new ideas and innovative approaches and adopt smart solutions and measures customized/adapted to the local/destination context and specific conditions.

  • Consider innovative and smart measures and initiatives implemented by other tourism destinations around the world; some cities and destinations are at the avant-garde, cutting-edge in this field.

  • The above best/exemplary practices could be used as a guidance, models. Cities are encouraged to think out-of-the-box, go beyond off-the-beaten tracks, be smart in ideas, approaches, solutions and measures which will be beneficial to all stakeholders involved (residents, visitors, businesses)

  • Keep informed and up-to-dated about smart tourism tools, measures and projects, sharing the best practices in tourism implemented by cities

  • Do not hesitate to experiment by taking measured/calculated risks elaborating on and implementing small scale projects not requiring high investment.

  • Enhance and facilitate the local actors/stakeholders to disseminate and exchange of best practices in this field

  • Exchange ideas about specific cases, concrete actions and solutions implemented and the challenges faced.

  • Strengthen peer-to-peer learning and innovative development of tourism at global scale.

37It is believed that with the accelerating pace of digitalization in many aspects of our daily life and business world and environment, ST will become increasingly important over the next few years. That is why all stakeholders involved – governments, local authorities, public bodies, business and private sector, residents and communities – should watch and learn from the various plans and projects implemented or underway. There is always something interesting a lesson to take from international experiences.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: The 4 categories of the “Making tourism smart”
Crédits Source: EU, 2020
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Marios Sotiriadis, « Smart Tourism in Practice: The EU Initiative “European Capitals of Smart Tourism” »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 51 | Avril 2022, mis en ligne le 15 avril 2022, consulté le 21 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Marios Sotiriadis

Professor, Ningbo University, China,

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