According to the UN, by 2050 around 70 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas. Cities will have to step up to new challenges with smart solutions. But how will these solutions affect the economy and urban tourism?
In 2018 international tourism hit 1.4 billion and with new Smart technologies, experts say that number will only rise.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) held their annual global conference in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan this year, thanks to the cities attempts to use technology to improve resident’s lives, and become a so-called “smart city”.
Chief, Market Intelligence and Competitiveness at World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Sandra Carvao said: “Today urban tourism is obviously one of the key elements of urban development. We have to work on 5 pillars. One of them is technology naturally, and innovation. But also sustainability, accessibility and governance, which are often forgotten about elements.”
The conference had one clear message though: attracting tourists should not come at the expense of residents.
Pia Pakarinen, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki, said: “I think we have to have citizens first approach. If we want to have good place for tourists, we have to have good place for inhabitants of the city first. Today the mass of tourists is exploding. So we have to be careful not to over do it.”
It is no coincidence that Nur-Sultan was chosen to host the UNWTO summit. Its population has tripled since the 90s and the Kazakh capital is relatively young which makes it a lot easier to begin implementing new approaches to develop the urban environment.
Altai Kulginov, Mayor of Nur-Sultan, said: “20 years ago the population of the city was less than 300,000 people. Today there’s over a million people living in Nur-Sultan. With the great inflow of people we need to introduce new technologies”.
One example is the city’s mobile application, that in several clicks gives residents access to more than 75 services in the city - public transport, education, taxes or medical services. It has only been developed recently, but the application is already used by 1 in 5 residents of the city.
“We have introduced an eHealth passport - an electronic medical card for patients living in Nur-Sultan. It does not exist in other cities of Kazakhstan. Through the application, you can make a hospital appointment and get medical test results. And not just for residents, but also for foreign guests. Last year, this service was used by 3500 tourists tourists from 45 countries”.
So the concept that Nur-Sultan have implemented is a smart city concept that improves city life, whilst still supporting the community, bringing local engagement to the center of the conversation about economic growth and sustainability.