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Smart destinations and tech-savvy millennial tourists: hype versus reality

Francisco Femenia-Serra (Tourism Research Institute, Universitat d’Alacant, Alicante, Spain)
José F. Perles-Ribes (Department of Applied Economic Analysis, Universitat d’Alacant, Alicante, Spain)
Josep A. Ivars-Baidal (Tourism Research Institute, Universitat d’Alacant, Alicante, Spain)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 4 February 2019




This paper aims to contrast the expectations placed on the smart destination as a theoretical management approach with the reality of emergent tech-savvy tourism demand by examining the response of this segment to three critical dimensions of technology use in the context of smart destinations. Tech-savvy tourists are here represented by highly educated Spanish millennial tourists.


Data were obtained through an online survey and analysed through descriptive techniques and exploratory factor analysis using SPSS. Literature review was critical for setting the foundations of the research in this novel context.


Results suggest the existence of a gap between the smart destination theoretical expectations and created hype and the real response of the examined demand in the three main scopes for this tourist-smart destination technology-based relationship, namely, mobile technology use, data sharing for personalised experiences and smart technologies for enhanced experiences.

Research limitations/implications

Convenience sampling was used, and the results of the study cannot be generalised to all millennial tourists. The research is a first approximation to the interrelationship between tourists and smart destinations.


Tourists’ role and experiences mediated by information and communication technologies (ICTs) are decisive in smart destinations. Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), through their policies and actions, ought to take into account the limited predisposition of tourists in using mobile devices, sharing data and using smart technologies for their experiences. Privacy concerns appear to have special relevance for tourists and, therefore, for the future of smart destinations.


The findings offer relevant insights for smart destinations from a neglected angle hitherto, as they introduce several interesting nuances which do not match entirely the fast track taken by institutions, media and academia. This is critical for better understanding tourists in the current panorama, for DMOs and for the theoretical foundations of smart tourism. Besides, the exploratory data analysis reveals potential dimensions of millennials’ behaviour, which can be useful for further investigations.



Research carried out within the project ‘Analysis of planning processes applied to smart cities and smart tourism destinations. Balance and methodological proposal for tourist spaces: Smart Tourism Planning’ (CSO2017-82592-R) under the Spanish National R&D&I Plan and Grant no. BES-2015-073909, funded by the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.


Femenia-Serra, F., Perles-Ribes, J.F. and Ivars-Baidal, J.A. (2019), "Smart destinations and tech-savvy millennial tourists: hype versus reality", Tourism Review, Vol. 74 No. 1, pp. 63-81.



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