Winners of the Digitalisation award at the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 Competition, Slovenian capital Ljubljana sets a “benchmark in terms of sustainability” as rightfully acknowledged by Cartagena. Whilst the latter is transforming Spain’s main military haven and usual cruise tourism into a sustainable and smart leading city. Both ICC cities offers unique insights into Green and Digital Tourism.
ICC spoke to Cristina Mora (Councillor for Sustainable Development and EU programmes and Cartagena’s ICC representative) and Cristina Pérez (Councillor for Tourism) and Matej Cerar (Coordinator for the Ljubljana consortium) and Neža Semič (Tourism Product Coordinator) from Tourism Ljubljana.
“A great and timely opportunity”
Ms Mora recalls the first time she heard about the ICC, “I thought it was a great and timely opportunity for us because we needed to accelerate our digital and sustainable transformation and the support provided by the ICC could be a catalyst to achieve that”. Further, Cartagena identified a clear need to “open up to Europe much more than we have done in the past and create links and collaborative relationships with other European cities”.
“Cartagena must reinvent its approach to tourism”
Two thematic tracks are focused on by Cartagena ‘Green and digital transition in tourism’ and ‘Green economy and local green deals’ as “Cartagena must diversify its tourism offer and make it less seasonal.” To do so, Cartagena will use its cultural and historical wealth, gastronomy, and natural resources and landscapes. The city is already working on implementing its sustainable transformation, these include:
- An innovative app showing Cartagena’s touristic offerings, such as cultural tours which use gamification and special features for cruise ship tourism
- A upcoming shared electric mobility system consisting of 150 electric scooters and 150 electric bicycles for residents and tourists. This will complement pre-existing mobility services and will be an important step forward to promote multimodality on a large scale in the municipality
- More and new services and intelligent infrastructure near beaches, including a Wi-Fi networks, a new traffic light management system to help optimise traffic, 36 smart canopies with public information, 10 digital information screens and a smart parking system at the beach entrances.
As a tourist city with great focus on cruise tourism, Cartagena was hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The unemployment rate rose sharply as local businesses had to close and were not yet ready to compete on the e-commerce market. Luckily, the City Council was able to act swiftly, launching initiatives such as ‘Cartagena Market’, a digital platform through which local businesses in Cartagena can now offer their products as e-commerce.
“Cartagena needs Europe to access an ecosystem of innovation, exchange of knowledge and inspiration”
With ICC, Cartagena is taking advantage of the accompaniment and technical assistance of the European experts – and more particular Dolores Ordoñez, lead expert in tourism – to make initiatives and projects more efficient, digital, scalable and profitable. Cartagena merits ICC for being “a large hub of knowledge and exchange of experiences that is very useful to the participating cities to inspire and learn from each other about the challenges we face.” Most importantly to the city keen to reach out further in Europe, “ICC has allowed us to establish collaborative links with the metropolitan area of Rome, Budapest, Palaio i Faliro and the Diputación de Alicante.”
Whilst Ljubljana’s ICC priorities are eGovernment and digitising public services and innovative education and training for up- and re-skilling, ICC has also recognised Ljubljana’s efforts in Green and Digital Tourism.
“Ljubljana is a city with a green soul”
The Slovenian capital is the proud holder of the title European Green Capital 2016 and is among the 8 most sustainable cities in the world according to Lonely Planet. The world-leading destination in the sustainable tourism field has seen its achievements highlighted by Monocle (naming Ljubljana a top 25 small city in the world), Condé Nast Traveller, European Best Destinations and Global Top 100 Sustainable Destinations. It is remarkably rich in green areas and is working intensively to develop sustainable forms of mobility. Some of the many of Ljubljana’s green achievements include:
- Having one of the most used bike-sharing systems in Europe per capita, as recognised by the 3 consecutive features in the Copenhagenize Bicycle Friendly Cities Index (reaching 8th place in 2017) and having been a traffic-free city centre since 2008.
- The Green Supply Chains project encourages the use of locally produced food in hotels and restaurants.
- Efforts to ‘de-seasonalise’ tourism and relieve the pressure on the city centre by redirecting tourist flows to other parts of the city, 25 municipalities and its green hinterland.
“We believe the future is even more green, sustainable and digital tourism.”
Ljubljana further strives to be increasingly digital, “We believe that digitalisation offers better consumer experience. Digital content must be accessible, innovative, easy-to-use, smart and all-inclusive. That is why Ljubljana offers many smart solutions tailored to the needs and capabilities of our city” says Mr Cerar. A selection of these solutions are:
- Tap Water Ljubljana app gives users information on where to find public water fountains with drinkable water.
- Ljubljana by Wheelchair app helps visitors find wheelchair-accessible locations.
- URBANA smart card enables simplifies payment for bus rides, the bicycle sharing system and parking fees.
- Nexto app is an audio guide content combined with additional features such as puzzles, riddles and item collection by scanning objects with a smartphone.
- Kavalirs (Gentle Helpers) are electric-powered vehicles
Before COVID-19, 96% of Ljubljana’s overnights were produced by foreigners. The pandemic has therefore heavily impacted the tourism industry as Ljubljana Tourism is a public institution mainly financed by tourist taxes. Instead, the focus is now on domestic visitors and virtual tours and activities such as the digitalisation of heritage works.
For Ljubljana, “the many new connections, as well as the insights into other cities and frameworks, from which we could choose from and adopt practices into our cities” has been the main benefit of ICC. Further, “the widely recognised and respected” brand of ICC has also brought the Slovenian consortium closer and helped the city’s domestic agenda.