The tenth episode of the “Smart gets you further” podcast by Misa Labarile, Policy Officer at the European Commission, DG GROW, focuses on Dublin and Grosseto, as leading examples of European smart tourism destinations.
Dublin (Ireland) and Grosseto (Italy) have recently been named the 2024 European Capital and Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism. Both cities share their insights and the importance of the competition in a recent episode of the ‘Smart gets you further’ podcast. Hosted by Misa Labarile, Policy Officer at the European Commission, DG GROW, the podcast is all about smart tourism in Europe and features discussions on accessibility, sustainability, digitalisation and cultural heritage and creativity from experts in the tourism sector.
The journey towards smart tourism
Dublin began its transformation towards smart tourism almost five years ago, citing the Covid pandemic as a catalyst for the need to change the way the city approached tourism. Like many popular European destinations, tourism in Dublin was seen as a major economic driver, but the changes in the industry have led to creating a smarter approach, that promotes tourism as an important part of culture and accessibility, rather than just an economic driver. The EU’s European Capital of Smart Tourism initiative, launched in 2018, has defined the need for a smart tourism approach at a European level, looking for initiatives in the areas of accessibility, sustainability, digitalisation and cultural heritage and creativity.
Dublin was in the running to become the European Capital of Smart Tourism in 2022, building on its strengths in digitalisation. After being shortlisted that year, the city began to reassess its weaknesses and work towards a smart tourism approach in order to reapply for the competition and win the title in 2024. The city has used the previous competitions and examples of the winners as inspiration to transform its approach to smart tourism. The concrete examples and projects of previous winners such as Pafos, Seville, Bordeaux and Valencia, as well as the many workshops and networking opportunities initiated by the Smart Tourism award, have led Dublin to further improve the city.
“It is very difficult to talk about what needs to change at a destination level without practical examples and one of the best things that the Smart Tourism initiative does is give you endless practical examples from other destinations,” says Barry Rogers, the Head of Dublin City Tourism Unit.
In recent years, Dublin has adopted the UN definition of sustainable tourism and was the first Irish signatory to the Glasgow Declaration on Sustainable Tourism. To create a more sustainable approach to tourism, the city has also shifted its focus from international markets to the domestic market, ensuring a tourism experience for the locals that also has a lower carbon footprint. Accessibility is now a prominent part of Dublin’s tourism strategy, not just physically accessible infrastructure, but also accessibility in a broader sense. Digitalisation is an area of smart tourism in which Dublin excels – the launch of the Dublin Discovery Trails app encourages visitors and locals to explore the city’s lesser known neighbourhoods and communities. In addition, Dublin is one of the only cities in Europe to have its own dedicated Culture Company, which is innovating the cultural experiences in the city.
In 2024, Dublin is looking forward to continuing the collaboration between cities to create the future of smart tourism. “We can’t wait to host and collaborate with the other amazing destinations that have been part of the Smart Tourism initiative over the last five years”, says Barry. “There’s an unfortunate thing that destinations do, which is that they see other cities around Europe and the world as their competitors. What we are very keen to do next year is to throw all that out of the window and invite our competitors to Dublin”.
Promoting slow and sustainable tourism
Grosseto, on the other hand, may be new to the competition, but not to the concept of sustainable and green tourism. A small town in the south-eastern part of Tuscany, Italy, Grosseto has long attracted tourists for its organic farming and vineyards. Through gastronomic guided tours, the city offers tourists a unique and authentic experience, while also involving the local community and creating new employment opportunities in the tourism sector.
Since 1975, Grosseto has been working towards a more sustainable model of tourism, an important part of which is the protection and preservation of its nature and landscape. This approach is reflected in the promotion of slow tourism in the area. Instead of trains or cars, the Grosseto area can be explored on newly improved cycle paths and the Urban Trekking project. “Slow tourism is an experience. When you travel by plane or by train, you lose a lot of details that are very important. An immersive experience of the territory is what is important to us,” adds Valentina Mecacci, of the Grosseto Municipal Tourism Office.
In the run-up to becoming a European Green Pioneer of Smart Tourism, the city has also been working on improving the accessibility of its historic centre and tourist attractions. In order to make the green experience of the area accessible, the city’s council has worked on roads and cycle paths to accommodate all tourists travelling to the area. In 2024, the destination hopes to invite everyone to experience the area’s slow and sustainable tourism.
Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.
She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.