Tourism is on the upswing after the hard setback of the pandemic. Although people have returned to travel, however, tourists' choices and expectations have changed, opening up to scenarios that were unprecedented or underestimated a few years ago.
We have rediscovered the value of proximity tourism and we're more aware of the environmental impact of our trips; above all, though, tourism has gotten more and more digital, particularly if we take into consideration the customer experience that goes into the planning and conduct of the trip.
For this series of reasons, in a scenario that is still delicate and complicated by the coexistence of various factors of instability, territorial valorization has to deal with digitization and must adopt new technologies, individually integrated and customized.
Mountain tourism: innovation and challenges
Mountain communities, in which more than half of Italy's territory falls, constitute a territorial system endowed with a great tangible and intangible cultural heritage. Today more than ever, mountains play a crucial role within the Italian tourism scene, with a total volume of presences rapidly returning to pre-pandemic levels.
At the crossroads between natural scenic attractions, the presence of sports facilities and walking routes, and the emotional resonance of material culture and traditions, mountain communities represent a popular destination for many Italians in both the winter and summer seasons.
Added to this is a mode of land use closely linked to the post-pandemic scenario, which thins the boundary between tourism and residence: that of remote working. More and more Italians are in fact choosing to move away from big cities to go – or return – to live and work in small towns.
Mountain communities and digitization
With the Green Communities project, the PNRR embraces these trends and aims to "foster the sustainable and resilient development of rural and mountain territories that want to make balanced use of the riches they have."
Project funds will go towards the development of more than 30 projects to connect the territory through sustainable tourism, which together with energy, environmental, economic and social development plans will involve more than 500 Italian municipalities with a total investment of 130 million euros.
The big challenge for Italian mountain communities, however, is the need to bridge the gap in telecommunications that still divides them from large cities. This innovation can be only achieved at infrastructural level, as the result of a joint effort between the public and private sectors, in order to fully enable the potential of state-of-the-art tourism solutions.
Indeed, new technologies play a key role in creating memorable experiences that can connect visitors with the cultural heritage of mountain communities while helping to make these areas safer and better served for tourists and residents.
Neosperience has now established a very significant experience in this area. In light of it, we have developed several innovation scenarios for territorial systems, functional for the enhancement of tourism in mountain communities.
Gamification and AR/VR for immersive experiences
We hear more and more about gamification, or the use of game-derived elements to increase participant engagement and motivation. Gamification is an innovative way of increasing audience engagement and can be applied to various products and services.
The application of these dynamics to mountain tourism makes it possible to create unforgettable travel experiences, but also to look at everyday places through different eyes, effectively offering an additional layer of interaction that allows users to experience firsthand the story of the place being visited.
The addition of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality elements to mobile applications also transforms proximity tourism into a true adventure. Travelers of all ages can explore places of interest in new and fun ways, completing "missions" and collecting points.
Between local and global
A local gamification strategy such as the one just outlined can also be integrated with global solutions such as geocaching, a collective "treasure hunt" that has more than three million participants and relies on GPS technology for finding and exchanging notebooks (logbooks) and small gadgets.
Travel companies and private facilities such as hotels, mountain lodges and restaurants can also take advantage of gamification. Solutions such as our Nudging Gamification allow for the creation of mobile applications tailored to the specific identity and goals of customers.
With gamification initiatives, companies and facilities can increase guest engagement and loyalty during their stay, while also quickly and effectively collecting valuable customer data and quantitatively and qualitatively measuring the success of initiatives.
Finally, gamification can prove to be an important tool for raising awareness of environmental issues, with a view to so-called "responsible tourism." Indeed, the creation of a sense of empathy towards the nature and history of a place is even more immediate and spontaneous if travelers can interact with it themselves.
Artificial Intelligence for personalized tourism
Artificial Intelligence is opening up new scenarios in several application sectors, including tourism. In this constantly changing world, still suffering from the travel restrictions of recent years, it has become imperative to keep up with the times and understand the new, often unpredictable habits of travelers.
Integrating Artificial Intelligence within one's systems allows one to establish an ongoing and lasting relationship with the customer, based on a deep understanding of their needs and preferences.
This argument applies even more in cases such as mountain communities: as we have illustrated in the previous paragraphs, often within an area coexist vastly different ways and times of visiting throughout the year.
Using data analysis and Machine Learning, Voice of Customer systems analyze the individual preferences of travelers to create customized packages, from the most rugged itineraries for experienced trekkers to days of pure relaxation for those unplugging from the city.
Specifically, in the case of accommodations and recreational facilities related to the travel, Voice of Customer evolves into Voice of Guest. Listening to the voice of the guest means acquiring and analyzing their habits, identifying the factors that influence each customer's preferences and choices.
Investing in state-of-the-art technological solutions thus propels the hospitality industry toward new business models, capable of reacting more quickly to changes in market dynamics and maintaining a competitive positioning.
Another help to tourism comes from chatbots and conversational agents. These forms of AI can answer travelers' questions and help them book flights, hotels and activities. Thanks to Natural Language Processing, these systems can overcome cultural and language barriers to better understand and fulfill everyone's needs.
Smart Security to prevent forest fires
The danger of forest fires affects all mountainous areas of Italy. Climate change has contributed to exacerbating this risk situation over the past few years, necessitating timely solutions that can prevent either natural or human caused fires from breaking.
Forest fire prevention is more important than ever if the biodiversity of mountain communities is to be preserved and nearby urbanized areas secured. Technology can offer valuable help in this context.
This is demonstrated by the projects in which Neoscogen, a company part of Neosperience that specializes in Safety&Security and offers solutions for monitoring and automatic detection of relevant events in different areas, is engaged.
The Artificial Intelligence behind Neoscogen, in combination with special state-of-the-art thermal imaging cameras capable of detecting fire even kilometers away, makes it possible to monitor areas at risk and intervene promptly in case of emergency.
In case of fire, Artificial Intelligence can provide real-time analyses and determine the best containment and damage limitation strategy, alerting the relevant authorities and preparing evacuation measures.
The use of these environmental sensors is also crucial to identify fires even before the fire spreads, but also to gather valuable information on climate and vegetation for preventive purposes.
On-call transportation to facilitate travel
From Northern to Southern Italy, public transportation management in small and medium territorial realities is still an open question.
In these contexts, it is necessary to rethink the transportation system to meet the needs of users – whether residents or tourists – with customizable, scalable and user-friendly DRT solutions.
EasyBus is the solution created by Somos, a Neosperience home-grown start-up linked to UniCal, which aims to make local public transport "tailor-made" through a suite of technological services: from a native app for booking seats to an AI system that monitors the service and highlights any critical issues in the frequency of rides.
Designed for congregation control during COVID emergency, EasyBus also finds an application for use in rural and mountainous areas, poorly served by the public transportation network, thanks to its geolocation service that allows passengers to be located and picked up directly from their location.
With Neosperience solutions we enable an empathetic, ecological and sustainable evolution of tourist flows, communities and territory. Our innovation proposals are supported and enhanced by new technologies and the desire to support the economic and cultural growth of territorial and tourism realities.