Leveraging Technology to support Sustainable Tourism

Tourism development, among proven economic and cultural benefits, also results in significant contribution to GHG emissions, increased energy and water consumption, waste generation, damage to biodiversity and threats to local cultures, built heritage and traditions. Technological advances such as geo-localization, the Internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and big data have boosted innovations for sustainability of the tourism sector and shaped new tourism models. They help tourism stakeholders manage sociocultural and environmental impact better, and so provide opportunities for governments to generate smarter forecasts and incorporate sustainable practices in tourism planning and management.

Digitalization and innovation are also critical for tourism enterprises’ survival and growth as the travel sector builds back from the COVID-19 impact. Understanding the data insights can  enhance their businesses by optimizing revenues through meta-search, machine learning, product diversification and platform centralization. The use of emerging technologies associated with resource and energy efficiency can also improve environmental performances of tourism enterprises. However, more public-private partnerships are needed to facilitate data sharing and boost the adoption of responsible practices. National and local governments can bring together the private sector’s commercial expertise to employ new technologies and take advantage of data analytics to create new opportunities for sustainable tourism.

Tiny man buying ticket online via laptop. Monitor, plane, baggage flat vector illustration. Travelling and digital technology concept for banner, website design or landing web page

Further, technology plays an important role in supporting travelers to make sustainable choices and decisions. A recent survey by The Economist highlights that travelers show optimism and preferences for travel that incorporates the use of technology regardless of age. Baby boomers and generation X perceive digital largely as a means to access environmentally-friendly or green accommodations, while generation Z and millennial travelers see technology as an enabler and expander of economic gain for local communities.

Technology improvements are also identified as major drivers for sustainable tourism investment decisions. Despite a general decline in venture capital funding for tourism during the pandemic, sustainable tourism technology maintained strong levels of investment from significant players, according to the UNWTO Travel and Tourism Tech Startup Ecosystem and Investment Landscape report. Many investors now recognize the necessity of tourism tech’s innovative solutions to public health, air quality, biodiversity, and other sustainability issues. Therefore, tourism tech has tremendous potential to grow and contribute to the sustainability and resilience of the tourism sector, which needs to be high on the agenda of governments and policymakers.

* Image Source: pch.vector on Freepik

The Mekong Tourism Forum 2022 features an expert-led panel discussion on “Technology: Unlocking Green Tourism Opportunities”, moderated by Daniel Gelfer, Director of Global Government Affairs at Agoda. This session will bring together 7 industry leaders to explore a broader perspective on how technology can shape the future of tourism and discuss ways to evolve into a more environmentally and socially sustainable business model through digital technology.

Don’t miss this opportunity to meet and join discussions with regional tourism experts. See full list of MTF 2022 speaker lineup at: https://mekongtourismforum.org/programme/.