On October 12, the European Commission hosted a virtual convention to discuss the future of tourism within the European Union. Hosted by Commissioner Thiery Breton, business and associations in the tourism industry debated how we should restart the Union’s tourism industry while focusing on three themes: resilience, sustainability/green transition as well as data and innovation. The last topic, data and innovation, naturally sparked our interest as that is exactly what Avoid Crowds is all about. Using data to fight overtourism.
In the morning a selection of 30 participants were split over working groups. All participants were carefully selected during an application process in the weeks before the convention. Avoid-Crowds.com was chosen to take part after providing our vision about the use of data in the future of tourism. Other participants included Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb as well as ministries of tourism, local tourism organisations and many more.
Hosted on Zoom, a lively discussion started in the breakout room I was assigned to. In this session we discussed how we can ‘steer innovation for the digital transformation of tourism, capitalising on data and new technologies. During the session we had to create action points that would be presented in the plenary session in evening. These action points needed to be SMART and we should set a time line.
Data to fight overtourism
All participants got enough space and time to bring any points to the discussion that they wanted. One of Avoid Crowds points was the fact that lots of data is gathered but not made available to anyone who wants to use that data. Data by governments, which we pay for through taxes, remains in their silos. To make sure we make full use of data, we should ensure that there is openness of data.
One of our points is that although Eurostat offers a good dataset, more data should be democratized and made available. While many participants argues that more money in the form of grants, loans and subsidies will lead to improvement, we don’t think so. The free availability of data and training to use that data is what we can do to move forward.
In the afternoon, a plenary session was organized. During the plenary session multiple pre-selected speakers shared their vision on how we can re-start tourism after COVID in a sustainable way. Meanwhile, topics from the morning sessions were presented to all participants during the plenary session. Our contribution, that data need to be taken out of their silos, was thereby represented. Overall a good experience and great that the European Commission is willing to listen to EU citizen initiatives like Avoid-Crowds.com.