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Revilla, M.R.G.;  Burgos, J.P.;  Einsle, C.S.;  Moure, O.M. Sustainability in Smart Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 24 June 2024).
Revilla MRG,  Burgos JP,  Einsle CS,  Moure OM. Sustainability in Smart Tourism. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 24, 2024.
Revilla, Mercedes Raquel García, Javier Perogil Burgos, Carmen Sarah Einsle, Olga Martinez Moure. "Sustainability in Smart Tourism" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 24, 2024).
Revilla, M.R.G.,  Burgos, J.P.,  Einsle, C.S., & Moure, O.M. (2022, August 05). Sustainability in Smart Tourism. In Encyclopedia.
Revilla, Mercedes Raquel García, et al. "Sustainability in Smart Tourism." Encyclopedia. Web. 05 August, 2022.
Sustainability in Smart Tourism
Sustainability is a widely accredited concept in economic and territorial development—especially in the tourism sector, where it has become not only an essential working tool that is intimately related to the maintenance of and respect for environmental resources but also a defining element of new conceptualisations in the field of tourism, such as smart tourism destinations (STDs) and so-called sustainable tourism, whose “development is indispensable for economic growth”. Though sustainability must be considered in its entirety in order to cope with the current crisis, actions related to environmental sustainability have been scarce, practically limited to capacity control, and in accordance with health and prevention criteria but not with the protection of environmental resources.
tourism sustainability smart tourism destination COVID-19

1. Smart Tourism

So-called smart tourism destinations (STDs), a new concept that combines ideas of destinations and intelligence, have been developed in recent years [1]. The popularity of the STDs has been increasing since 2013 [2] and has been proposed as a new formula for the management of tourism areas.
Smartness comprises the core components of information and communication technology (ICT), innovation and leadership, and social capital supported by human capital. ICT is a crucial aspect of all STDs, but both virtual ICT and real components need to be considered during the design stage [3][4] because all components that constitute smartness must be integrated to make a tourism destination a smart one [5]. STDs emerged from and are a crucial part of smart cities [6]. ICT, together with sustainability, plays a crucial role in the development process of smart cities [7] and social networking sites’ influence in sustainable tourism behaviour [8]. The experience of smart tourism is hereby represented by real-time information, prolonged engagement, and above all the offer of personalised services [9]. One major example of a city that has been adopting and implementing the smart strategy is Barcelona, Spain, which aims to be a leading global model [10].
“It seems to be commonly accepted that the concept of STD still needs to be formalised” [11], and there is “still confusion about what a smart city is” [12]. Nevertheless, there is a clear basis for the definition of an STD comprising several elements. In broad terms, sustainability, technological innovation, information processing, and governance constitute the so-called smart model proposed as an alternative to the conventional one [13]. This model has even facilitated the emergence of a methodology commercialised through institutions such as Aenor (Spanish abbreviation for Asociación Española de Normalización y Certificación—which meets the certification standards UNE 178501 [14] and UNE 178502 [15]) and Segittur (Spanish abbreviation for Sociedad Estatal de Gestión de la Información y las Tecnologías Turísticas, S. A.—which adheres to the STD network) [16] with the capability of attracting international destinations.
The COVID-19 crisis situation in the sector, which “has perhaps been the most affected of all economic sectors” [17] (p. 326), has highlighted the use of alternative management systems such as smart management, which—although not configured as a tool to alleviate temporary situations such as the current one—can aid the development and assessment of sustainability actions deployed by tourism destinations in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Smart management can also help develop similar strategies that might be useful in the new social and health context.

2. Tourism Sustainability

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development stated that the concept of sustainable development refers to meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs [18], especially regarding economic, social, and environmental development. In 1983, increased awareness of sustainable development led to the creation of the Commission on Development and Environment by the United Nations [19]. This concept was further complemented in 1991 by the World Conservation Union, which stated: “sustainable development implies the improvement of the quality of life within the limits of ecosystems” [20].
On the other hand, the concept of sustainability has been involved in the traditions of many indigenous communities, and it has been associated with other adjectives such as ecological, green, and blue [21]. Both sustainability and sustainable development are deeply interconnected, and their importance is recognised today. Under these two concepts, natural resources must be used rationally in order to main human survival. Accordingly, the availability of these resources must be guaranteed now to ensure their availability in the future [22].
In ecological terms, sustainability requires that the economy must be circular, that is, it follows cyclical patterns similar to those found in nature [23]. Thus, attention should be paid to the design of production systems that use resources and renewable energies without generating waste—i.e., they generate recyclable byproducts [23]. Social change is necessary to promote practices that allow society to adapt to and mitigate these impacts and the risks associated with global climate change, which are potential sources of social conflicts and health deterioration. Therefore, it is essential to understand the optimal quota for the usage of resources that enables the conservation of biological and functional diversity, thus ensuring the stable provision of goods and services for humanity now and in the future [24].
In the tourism sector, sustainability has emerged as a key driver of destination competitiveness due to the demand for more environmentally sustainable products and services [25]. “What made the global movement for sustainable development different from other environmental efforts that preceded it, was the recognition of the interrelationship between the critical elements of economic development, social policy and environmental protection” [26]. It has even been shown that sustainability has a significant impact on the competitiveness of a destination [27][28], even though most of the existing tourist city models are still more focused on competitiveness itself rather than overall sustainability [29].
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as tourism that meets the needs of today’s tourists and generates income and social welfare while protecting natural resources [30]. Certification is one way to gain new customers because it demonstrates the fulfilment of responsible and competitive tourism [31]. Countries that have chosen to develop sustainable tourism have branded themselves with a positive market image and thus managed to significantly increase their revenue.
Other countries have started developing sustainable tourism for different reasons, such as responding to current demands, protecting natural and cultural resources, gaining competitiveness, and increasing their gross domestic product. The defining characteristics of an STD include an attractive, diverse, and protected natural heritage; the development of indigenous tourism products; high business interest in a sustainable destination; and increasing environmental and social awareness. The disadvantages of a destination not offering sustainable tourism include progressive increases in fossil-fuel use and international tax penalisation for air fuel intended to curb climate change [27].
According to the Secretary of State for Tourism, Fernando Valdés, STDs “represent a commitment to sustainable tourism development, and entail a series of benefits, including the revaluation of the destination through innovation and technology; an increase in competitiveness; an improvement in efficiency, as well as the quality of the stay of visitors and the lives of residents” [32].
It is important to mention that sustainable development and social responsibility should not be officiated and handled by a single institution; they should instead be managed by all organisations involved in the sector [33]. Thus, tourism should rely on not only the leaders of the business sector but also employees of it and related sectors to positively contribute to sustainable social and environmental development.
Since smart management can help in the development and assessment of sustainability actions in the new social and health context, this is intended to provide information on the effectiveness, adequacy, and utility of the intelligent model in conjunctural situations similar to those of the present moment. The researchers  additionally propose a strategy that could be developed by STDs in similar crisis contexts in order to facilitate organised and sequenced crisis management.


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