My name is Jennie Gelter and I am a PhD student at ETOUR (European Tourism Research Institute) at Mid Sweden University. My PhD project focus on emerging smart cities and destinations, to make sense of the tumultuous changes that have come about through disruptive new technologies, affecting the tourism industry as information technology is a major driving force of change. The development of smart cities and destinations is unpredictable and challenging due to digitalisation with new forms of travel behaviour. Hence, adapting tothe emerging technologies, will lead to new challenges within tourism in general and destination development specifically. Digitalisation has also opened new channels for smart communication and information transfer that will affect the way that businesses, cities and destinations are organised and managed, as well as how travellers interact with destinations and tourism suppliers.
Contributing factors for such smart development are both the emergence of new digital opportunities such as Artificial Intelligence and Internet-of Things, as well as new global intermediate players within tourism such as Facebook, Google, Uber and Trip Advisor, that actively embrace such smart technologies. These smart booking and information systems affect local providers and destination stakeholders and their urgent need to adapt to this disruptive digital transformation. Therefore, more knowledge is needed about the new roles, activities and processes of tourists, providers, and stakeholders at a destination in the light of digital changes and smart development. One way to study the emergence of this ‘smart’ digital development in tourism, is to study emerging smart cities and destinations as complex adaptive systems. This implies that the tourism industry consists of many stakeholders, actors and elements acting at destinations through interdependent networks and relations. These systems of many components are causing challenges within governance of the development of emerging smart cities and destinations. As smart development is complex and fast-changing, destination development needs new practise to adapt to internal and external digital forces in the process of becoming smart.
The aim of the research is to generate new knowledge about how smart cities and destinations can be understood, contextualised and conceptualised as complex adaptive systems. What do we mean by smart cities and destinations? How will planning, destination development, governance and strategies be affected by smart development? As smart development becomes more complex, making sense of it becomes more difficult and adaptation to the changing environment becomes more challenging for involved actors and stakeholders. Hence, understanding cities and destinations as systems and their inherent complexity will generate cutting-edge knowledge to adapt to the future of digital development.