Smart tourism highlighted at WTCF Helsinki meeting

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The World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF) on Tuesday called for more globalized and standardized development of “smart tourism”.

The annual highlight meeting of the WTCF is now being arranged for the first time in Europe.

Addressing the opening of the 2019 “Fragrant Hills Tourism Summit” in Helsinki, Song Yu, WTCF Secretary General, said that the development of smart tourism in the world is still at the stage of localized, decentralized and individualized exploration.

Song suggested that tourism cities should conduct in-depth research on major issues of world tourism while warning against over-tourism.

“Cities should take advantage of the role of online tourism in resource integration; take effective steps to prevent over-tourism from affecting people’s lives,” he said.

He underlined that the fundamental purpose of the development of smart tourism cities is to provide efficient, smart, and people-friendly services for urban residents, improving their travel experiences.

Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki, defined that “the global future of travel is the future of the individual”. He underlined the key role of cities at the core of this development.

“Cities are the platforms that will either champion the new wave of tourism, or fail,” he said. In his view, only by “sharing best practices, creating joint programs and taking advantages of the latest innovations in technology we are able to stay ahead.”

Laura Aalto, CEO of Helsinki Marketing, said she likes to think Helsinki as a test site, a front runner in bold smart city development. She underlined the opportunities the WTCF has opened for cooperation and contacts.

Zhu Shanzhong, the Executive Director at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said UNWTO and WTCF launched the City Tourism Performance Research in 2018 which highlighted the success stories of 15 different cities worldwide. The aim was that other cities could observe and learn from these case studies.

Last year saw 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals, two years ahead of UNWTO initial forecasts. “Much of this growth was fueled by Chinese outbound travelers,” Zhu noted.

Li Baochun, Executive Deputy Secretary General of the WTCF, said China had done well in developing smart services for travellers. Addressing the media, he noted the strong support of the government in China and the active involvement of the market.

At the conference in Helsinki, special dialogues have been arranged to support member cities in sectors such as destination marketing and better service.

The WTCF was established in 2012 in Beijing with 58 founding members. It has now grown into an international tourism body with a total of 218 members, including 145 city members, 73 institutional ones as well as 6 branches.

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