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15.05.2015

Mobile Thinking Days: digital transformation reaches the tourism sector

When preparing for a trip, one of the things that tourists most value today is the ability to remain connected. Those hotels, restaurants and even urban areas that offer not only Wi-Fi, but all types of added-value digital services, will be those in which visitors are most interested.

Barcelona is a pioneering and innovative city, and this attitude is also evident in its adoption of mobile solutions, a trend whose transfer to the tourism sector is vital. This and other questions were analysed at the Mobile Thinking Days, the first forum dedicated to reflection on how the digital transformation will affect competitiveness in the tourism sector in the coming years. The forum, organised into four working days, and benefitting from the participation of 30 specialists in the sector, addressed key issues like the new power that mobile solutions give travellers, the management of Big Data, and the advent of the Internet of Things in tourism contexts. Some of the sector’s major challenges include enriching information capture, generating unique user experiences, and increasing the average visitor’s spending.

Mobile World Capital Barcelona, IESE Business School and the consultancy RocaSalvatella were the organisers of the event, which culminated on 13 May 2015 with the presentation of its conclusions and a round table discussion. Oscar Pallarols, director of MWCB’s Smart Living programme; Javier Zamora, a professor at the IESE Business School and academic director of Mobile Thinking Days; Genís Roca, partner and president of RocaSalvatella; and Jordi William Carnes, CEO of Turismo de Barcelona, exchanged points of view at a chat moderated by specialised journalist Aintzane Gastesi.

According to Oscar Pallarols, at this time a window of opportunity is opening in Barcelona to take advantage of the potential that connectivity and digitalisation offer in the tourism services sector.  And, as Genís Roca observed, it is not just about hotels, restaurants and stores integrating gadgets into their facilities: digital transformation transcends the technology itself, entailing a change of mentality. It is important to emphasise how this paradigm shift is affecting decision-making.

Barcelona is becoming a Smart Destination to follow, a leader that other smart cities around the world are looking to as an example to design their own strategies. Initiatives are being carried out in the city without parallels in any other part of the world. Thus, it is necessary for Barcelona to take advantage of these efforts and impress upon tourism sector directors the need to look ahead and embrace a change that will spread everywhere in the near future.

On the other hand, the firm commitment to the total integration of mobile technologies carries with it the possibility of making mistakes. Genís Roca, nevertheless, encouraged tourism sector leaders to make them: “We shouldn’t be scared of doing things badly. We must learn from it. The real risk is not doing anything.”

Javier Zamora, from the IESE Business School, commented on how hotels are transforming into hubs, the tourist’s portal to all kinds of contents and services. The hotel will ultimately be an establishment that will facilitate the tourist’s acquisition of information about the city, which must be taken into account when it comes to planning digital transformation strategies. He also centred his remarks on the indispensable change in mentality that companies must exhibit, beginning with their top executives, who should serve as role models for change, while also demonstrating the capacity to inspire their entire organisations in this regard.

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As a result of the impact of digital technology on tourism, the structures of the entire value chain and business models are changing. What users demand today is a resource offering them answers and solutions, in real time, to their immediate requests.

In short, the Mobile Thinking Days’ sessions demonstrate that Barcelona is prepared to redefine the tourism sector and begin to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital transformation.