Leire Bilbao, Director at Visit Benidorm, in charge of managing the DMMO (Destination Marketing Management Organisation) for the city of Benidorm and leading the city's Smart Tourism Destination project.
Responsible for the Innovation Axis in the DTI Management Body, which has promoted the UNE 178501 certification (Smart Tourism Destination Management System) and the Intelligence and Smart Data Unit of Visit Benidorm.
Benidorm is the first smart tourist destination in the world to be certified according to this standard (UNE 178501) and is the only city that has certified its tourism intelligence system with the UNE 166006 R+D+i System: Technological Surveillance and Competitive Intelligence standard.
Management is the element of transformation towards a new innovative destination model, to face the changes of a complex tourism scenario.
Benidorm is one of the most popular tourist destinations in our country. How would you say digitalisation has evolved in the tourism sector and what has been the impact after the implementation of technologies applied to tourism?
Benidorm is undoubtedly one of Spain's tourism emblems and, like many destinations around the world, has undergone a profound transformation due to digitalisation. This digital evolution in the tourism sector can be seen from various perspectives.
One of the most obvious changes has been the shift from traditional bookings to online bookings. Platforms such as Booking, Airbnb and others have made it easier for tourists to compare prices, read reviews and book in real time.
Social media and mobile apps have also completely changed the way establishments interact with their customers. A tourist can now leave a comment on TripAdvisor or Google Maps that can influence the decision of other potential visitors. This has raised the standard of quality and forced businesses to be more attentive to the demands and needs of their customers.
With the help of technology, tourism services can now offer more personalised experiences. From hotels offering mobile check-in to virtual tours of places of interest, technology has made the tourism experience more convenient and tailored.
The city has also been incorporating technology to improve its processes and optimise resources to provide a better service to citizens and tourists who choose us to enjoy their holidays.
The city also hosts numerous activities and attractions that invite more and more tourists to choose this destination, but, in addition, has any specific initiative been implemented to take advantage of digital technologies in the promotion of the municipality? Which one(s)?
Undoubtedly the city has implemented specific actions from the management of the water cycle, wifi on the beaches, to the mobility of the city. All under the umbrella of the Smart Office of Visit Benidor, which in the framework of the Smart Tourist Destinations is the witness of the monitoring of the roadmap of the city.
In the field of tourism promotion, digital marketing and social media to reach specific audiences have been essential. Social media campaigns, online advertising and partnerships with influencers and bloggers are key to our day-to-day business. But all of this emerges from the first step, which is Tourism Intelligence, and the analysis of data, from air connectivity to visitor behaviour, which allows us to manage tourism promotion. This information is shared with the tourism sector with the aim of improving and adapting services to the needs of tourists.
Benidorm is actively participating in the definition of UNE Standards, has this been reflected in the development of a smart, innovative, accessible and sustainable tourist destination?
If we are convinced in the certification for process improvement, we participate in CTN 179 in Subgroup 5 of Smart DestinationsWe apply many certifications at the destination, but UNE 178501 is undoubtedly our flagship.
Continuous improvement in the implementation of these certifications helps us to maintain our roadmap with the same momentum.
Furthermore, it is the first municipality in the world to be certified as an "Intelligent Tourist Destination". What are the objectives to be achieved in order to comply with the legal, governmental, technological and sustainable requirements of the UNE 178501 Standard?
Clearly, Visit Benidorm's commitment is to optimise its human and economic resources to provide a better service to residents, and therefore to be the best place for the tourists who choose us. All this under the methodology that allows us to put the focus through governance on sustainability and accessibility of the territory.
This is allowing us to continuously measure data, improve processes and evolve towards regenerative and circular tourism through participatory governance with the help of standardisation.
With regard to the incorporation of the Tourism Intelligence System for the implementation of a Smart Tourist Destination platform, what can you tell us about this project? (Project together with MINETAD and SESIAD).
Undoubtedly, we believe that this is an opportunity to change the tourism paradigm, and for Spain to continue leading tourism competitiveness by focusing on destinations, which is where tourist visits take place. Starting to build data from the municipal level, and not from above (state or regional level) is essential to improve territorial management, and through the data to make political decisions that result in optimisation.
This process, which Benidorm has fully internalised, will gradually permeate the rest of the destinations thanks to the SIT (Territorial Information System).
If we talk about public-private collaboration in the modernisation of the sector, what roles do the Visit Benidorm Foundation and the Department of Tourism play in the development of smart initiatives?
The Visit Benidorm Foundation is undoubtedly a paradigm of public-private management in which the private sector takes a step forward in the professionalisation of tourism promotion, not only by providing knowledge, but also by participating in a 52% in economic contributions. This allows for efficient, agile and up-to-date management.
The Department of Tourism is more concerned with governance, quality, information and event management at the local level.
The collection and management of tourist knowledge is a priority to ensure good management. How is the information collected being used to create new tourism promotion strategies?
Visit Benidorm decided that tourism intelligence was essential in its management, and in the line of standardisation it has been certified since 2016 in the UNE 166006 of Competitive Intelligence. This has made it possible to establish internal procedures to detect opportunities early on thanks to the analysis of information and research, leading to strategic modifications in specific products to optimise the low tourist season. Some examples are the sports specialisation in the field of ?running? and cycling.
On the other hand, since 2018, by reaching a consensus on information needs, different data sources have been incorporated (air travel, active listening, holiday homes...) and monthly reports have been produced (Global, Markets and Competition) which are distributed to the tourism sector for the optimisation of private processes thanks to knowledge. Undoubtedly, this improvement in global knowledge has made us more competitive.
In terms of sustainability, how would you say responsible tourism practices and resource management are integrated into Benidorm's Smart City development strategy?
Visit Benidorm achieved under the Segittur methodology a rating of 89% in the Sustainability standard in 2018, the highest value of all the axes. So in Benidorm's DNA this axis has been internalised since its urban planning in 1956, when it decided to protect 61% of its small territory of 38 km2, and to build in a vertical model in which it consumed little land, and a lot of sky.
This vertical model has been key in the management of the city with major milestones such as the 96.4% of efficiency in the integral water cycle in a territory that suffers from water scarcity, making it one of the 3 cities in the world that best manage this resource, which has been possible thanks to the joint responsibility of the Benidorm Town Council, the business community and the citizens.
Waste management in just 4 hours every night regardless of the floating population of the city is another milestone (Registered residents 70,000, Floating Population 150,000-400,000) thanks to this vertical configuration.
Mobility on foot accounts for 70% of journeys through its more than 9.5 km of pedestrian zones, and has been improving the sustainable mobility strategy through PMUS (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan) with such amazing examples as the radical change of the first phase of Avenida Mediterránea where it has gone from 6 lanes for vehicles, to just one, and a bike lane, becoming the city's living room and walking space next to our Levante and Poniente promenades.
But it is not just environmental sustainability; social and economic sustainability have evolved steadily despite such serious situations for a destination whose sole industry is tourism at times as complicated as the Covid pandemic19.
And looking to the future, what are the next key steps and objectives for the modernisation and digitalisation of tourism in Benidorm?
Benidorm continues to work on its roadmap for continuous improvement, focusing not only on the sustainability of the model, but also on its circularity and regeneration with measures such as the first Climate Change Plan for a tourist city.
There are many challenges ahead of us, but the fact that Benidorm has become the laboratory of tourism innovation will allow it to move forward at great speed in terms of trends, and therefore in its leadership as a national destination.