ICTs tools combining smart experiences and digital engagement to enhance sustainability: A practice-led insight into tourism destinations


ICTs tools combining smart experiences and digital engagement to enhance sustainability: A practice-led insight into tourism destinations


Objectives. Digitalisation plays a relevant role in developing smarter destinations, nurturing travel experience innovation and contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, potentially addressing challenges such as seasonality and overcrowding (UNWTO, 2020). The European Commission is implementing the European Capital of Smart Tourism initiative, strengthening the connection between tourism-generated innovative development and sustainable development in cities.

 Acknowledging the potential of ICT platforms to radically change tourism destinations, practitioners and policymakers are experimenting with new ways to capitalise on disruptive digital power in COVID-19 era. ICT platforms are reshaping human-technology interaction in physical and virtual tourism experiences and are introducing innovative tools to manage and address tourism imbalances and unsustainable stakeholder behaviours (Femenia-Serra and Neuhofer, 2018; Trunfio and Campana, 2019; Trunfio and Pasquinelli, 2021).

Destinations as complex and dynamic systems of actors that develop socio-technological relationships create, share and transform knowledge into diverse forms of innovation (Racherla et al., 2008; Sheehan et al., 2016; Trunfio and Campana, 2019). In this scenario, technology-driven innovation enriches the destination with new value propositions and pushes forward the definition of new business models of sustainable development (Trunfio and Campana, 2020; Trunfio and Pasquinelli, 2021).

Although academics and policymakers worldwide recognise the disruptive power of innovation and diverse start-ups introduced ICT tools to innovate tourism experiences, research on technology-driven innovation in tourism destinations manifests grey areas, opening rooms for future research (Trunfio and Campana, 2019). How destination management organisations (DMOs) can lever on ICT tools to enhance combined forms of stakeholder engagement and experience co-creation and drive destination towards sustainable development remains largely unexplored.

This exploratory research aims to contribute to the debate on technology-driven innovation in the destination by cross-fertilising contributions that derive from adopting different disciplinary and theoretical domains (Eisenhardt et al., 2016; George et al., 2016): digital engagement, experience co-creation and sustainable development. Three areas of investigation have been chosen for the disruptive and pervasive role of ICTs in innovating the destination development model and facilitating stakeholder value co-creation. The paper maps and discusses ICT tools on which destination management organizations are levering in international destinations to enhance stakeholder engagement, experience co-creation and sustainable development. Adopting a practice-led approach, the research proposes theoretical advances and offers managerial practices for destination managers.

Literature considered the ICTs infrastructures as able to stimulate and enhance actors’ collaboration in destination networks and stakeholder engagement, supported by alternative forms of bottom-up and top-down legitimation and power (Baggio and Cooper, 2010; Go and Trunfio, 2011; Martínez-Pérez et al., 2019; Sigala, 2018; Stankov and Filimonau, 2019; Tuli et al., 2019; Trunfio and Campana, 2020).

The engagement of complex networks of stakeholders is widely recognised in destination management as one of the main drivers of value co-creation, offering both participatory decision-making and forms of e-democracy (Cabiddu et al., 2013; Melis et al., 2015; Hays et al., 2013; Munar, 2012; Rihova et al., 2014; Sigala and Marinidis, 2012; Trunfio and Della Lucia, 2019). It also impacts tourist satisfaction, tourist loyalty, revisit intention, intention to word-of-mouth, decision-making process and strengthens the long-lasting relationship with the destination (Brodie et al., 2011; Hollebeek et al., 2016; Vivek et al., 2012. 

#digital engagement #experience #practice-led research #smart technologies #sustainable destination