A 42-year-old businessman from Barcelona, Toni Mascaró has a mind that never stops racing. After a long career as a specialist businessman in new technologies and online marketing, he is currently the Chief Executive Officer at e.mascaró, one of the most successful and innovative companies in e-business applied to tourism.
For several years, he has been giving conferences on smart destinations and has formed his own theories on those concepts that offer added value to cities where tourism is a key player in the generation of economic welfare.
We talked about smart tourism, smart destinations and the reason why technologies have changed even our leisure time and our behaviour as tourists. According to Mascaró, we are currently in a new phase for two different reasons: "The first reason is the current trend towards a new, more sustainable and more technological city model: a Smart City, something this magazine knows about very well. The second reason stems from the current responsibility held by city councils, which compels them to be transparent and grant access to their data to anyone who wishes to see them (open data). Such data may be related to climate conditions, to rain statistics in a given area or to the city itself."
Tourists use these data, and these may prove themselves to have an influence on holiday destinations, as technologies are increasingly used: “Yes, tourists are now hyperconnected: "Rarely will they forget to pack their smartphone, tablet or laptop in their suitcase”, states Mascaró. “Nowadays, so much information is available that it may become too scattered; this is why applications that bring together the most useful data for citizens are needed. I suggest using applications such as Citymapper, which defines itself as the definitive App for public transport. It is available in several cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona, New York, Mexico DF, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Milan and Rome, among others.”
In the opinion of Toni Mascaró, benefits for tourists are not only practical in nature: “Without doubt, technology fosters greater integration in the city or area of action, because the person feels more involved in the life of the tourist destination: consider, for example, the possibility of knowing beforehand about the restaurants that are more in line with personal preferences.” This is where we introduce the concept of Smart Destinations: interactive, inclusive and open cities, but above all multiplatform cities that use public screens or smartphone applications. “The smartest cities will foster information exchange between cities and tourists”, states Mascaró, “which is not much different from the exchange between a city and its citizens.”
The smartest cities will foster information exchange between cities and tourists
A fundamental difference could be the use of several languages in the apps or websites of the smart city or smart destinations; the more languages, the better. “That’s not the only thing”, Mascaró explains. “Several services introduced by the private sector may be extremely useful for tourists, such as those in hotels, which may serve tourists in two different manners: making wi-fi access available -both in the hotel and with a “move-along” wi-fi” service that may be used by tourist families wherever they go around the city- and offering practical services that include taxi services, weather forecast, restaurants, etc. Besides, tourists may use social networks to give their opinions, which makes it possible for “institutional” information to be merged with private information. This would be a multilayered information system somehow, a system that includes everyone’s contribution and turns out to be very useful when visiting a city.”
You mentioned information layers… What are the most pressing needs of a smart tourist? “I will provide some examples, leaving the most straightforward ones aside (hotels, restaurants, cocktail bars…): a public wi-fi services map, useful and emergency phone numbers, maps showing where hospitals, police stations and tourist offices are located, information about plane, train and public services timetables, data on traffic and weather conditions, local social networks, etc.”
Mascaró lives and works in a city that aims to be the benchmark smart destination: “Barcelona has all it takes to be the world leading smart city, both for its citizens and for tourists alike, offering added value and taking in tourism that brings along wealth and welfare.”
Barcelona has all it takes to be the world leading smart city, both for its citizens and for tourists alike
If you were to convince the institutions in your city -or in any other city that lives from tourism- to adopt a measure to turn this city into a real smart destination, what would your advice be? Mascaró was fast and sure in his answer: “I would tell them to add tourism to the smart city concept (mobility, sustainability and energy saving) without doubt. Services for tourists must be an essential element for a city that intends to define itself as smart.”