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 Digitalisation and sustainability: Andalusia's strategy for the tourism sector after COVID-19  

In this interview, Manuel Alejandro Cardenete Flores (ES/Renew Europe) answers four questions on sustainable tourism, describing how the region of Andalusia develops new strategies based on digitalisation and sustainability. The Deputy Minister for Tourism, Regeneration, Justice and Local Administration of the Regional Government of Andalusia is the rapporteur for the opinion Towards more sustainable tourism for EU cities and regions, adopted during the December 2020 plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the tourism industry severely. As Committee of the Regions rapporteur for tourism and representative of a regional authority, what is your vision for tourism in the post-pandemic world?

The crisis is forcing us to review our tourism model. In Andalusia, we are not going to give up our worldwide tourism leadership, and we are not going to give up on growth, but it is urgent that we opt resolutely for a new model of sustainable tourism. If we want tourism to be a generator of wealth and well-being once again, we have to adapt the model to the new demands of travellers, who are becoming increasingly environmentally aware. We also need to adapt to a new future, which is based on health, safety, greater respect for the cultural and environmental environment, wholesale use of new technologies and the need to avoid unsustainable mass tourism. Innovation is the answer and the way forward is to foster entrepreneurship. To this end, we are improving professional qualifications, providing distinctive products and fostering the use of new technologies throughout the sector. Tourism has shown an enormous capacity to adapt and benefit from technological changes. We must continue along that path.

2. Looking at the lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis, along with the Green Deal targets, can European tourism emerge from the crisis stronger and greener?

Achieving innovative and sustainable tourism means consolidating a specific model, which is based on several key principles. Firstly, a model that is respectful of the environment. Secondly, a model that promotes quality employment. Thirdly, we want a tourism model that is more resilient and resistant to crisis but also a model that all residents can feel part of, that respects local values and that caters for the individual demands of each tourist. And these principles are valid not only for Andalusia, but for all European destinations. In Andalusia we are working hard to build the tourism of the future that we want: a post-pandemic tourism that is green, respectful of the environment and a champion of quality employment.

3. In the CoR opinion on sustainable tourism, you take a very modern approach to the topic, looking at the possibilities of data analytics, tourist flows and IT solutions. Is the green future of tourism a digital future?

There is no doubt about it. The future of tourism is digitisation. In Andalusia, we focus on accelerating the digital and green transition. As many as 95% of travellers worldwide use digital tools to find, choose, compare, buy and - very important - comment on destinations. These tools gather information on the preferences of the traveller and provide us with a set of information about our tourists and our potential clients. The use of information and data (big and small), gives us an advantage when planning our tourism strategies. This is about using business intelligence, which is the tool on which we want to build our future. In Andalusia, we have developed the Andalucía SmartData Project, which is precisely a business intelligence tool promoted by Turismo Andaluz. This tool allows us to integrate a large amount of information from various sources in order to closely monitor tourism activity and obtain advanced indicators that can guide us in our decision-making process, but also help other key stakeholders such private companies define their own strategies. Our smart data project is also a very useful tool for good governance, as it allows us to target recovery actions where there are signs of regeneration. On the other hand, deploying innovation and digitalisation requires skilled human capital. This is an important issue for our Department of Tourism, where we give particular importance to generating and attracting talent, combining expertise in tourism and technology. To this end, we have an interesting programme developed through the Andalusia HUB initiative.

4. You are a representative of one of the busiest tourist regions in Spain. How do you implement sustainability and digitalisation in your region and can you share a few examples?

At the government of Andalusia, we have two main strategies. The first strategy is digitalisation across the whole of the region, its municipalities and SMEs, with the goal of fostering implementation of new technologies in the tourism sector. The second is an innovation strategy, in which we involve municipalities, private companies, professionals and, especially, universities in a participatory approach to define the sustainable tourism model that Andalusia needs. We have reinforced these strategies with other stakeholders to encourage inclusive, accessible tourism, promoting smart tourist destinations and developing a more sustainable, balanced activity across the region in order to improve cohesion and reduce seasonality, as these are key factors in competitiveness. We will also continue to work closely with our universities. A good example is Andalusia's network of university grants for tourism, which facilitate transfer of innovation and knowledge in the tourism industry.

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