Sustainability, accessibility, digitalisation, cultural heritage and creativity are the four cornerstones of the European Tourism Capital initiative. The European Commission launched the competition for the European Capitals of Smart Tourism 2022 in April 2021 with the aim to reward innovative and smart tourism practices in European cities. The deadline for applications is 16 June 2021 at 17:00 CET.

Tourism is the EU’s third largest socio-economic activity, representing around 10% of the EU’s GDP. The sector plays a crucial role in generating growth and jobs, but still holds untapped potential – especially in the area of smart tourism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the tourism industry. With many cities and destinations now looking to recover and grow back, it is relevant to develop and implement smart tourism practices in line with green and digital transition.

Smart tourism responds to new challenges and demands in a fast-changing sector, including the evolution of digital tools, products and services; equal opportunity and access for all visitors; sustainable development of the local area; and support to creative industries, local talent and heritage.

This EU initiative aims to promote smart tourism in the EU, network and strengthen destinations, and facilitate the exchange of best practices. The competition is open to cities across both the EU, as well as the non-EU countries that take part in the COSME programme.

In order to compete for the 2022 European Capital of Smart Tourism title, cities are asked to demonstrate their innovative tourism practices in four award categories areas:

1) Accessibility: it includes services that are multilingual and digitally available to all travellers and visitors, regardless of their age, cultural background or their physical disability.

2) Sustainability: being sustainable does not only mean to manage and protect your natural resources as a city, but to reduce seasonality impacts on the environment and to involve the local community.

3) Digitalisation: a digital city uses digital technologies to enhance all aspects of the tourism experience, enabling simpler access to services, as well as to help local businesses to grow.

4) Cultural heritage and creativity: protect and capitalise on the local heritage as well as cultural and its creative assets for the benefit of the tourism destination, the industry and the visiting tourists in general.

What are the benefits of applying?

Winners of the title of European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022 will receive expert communication and branding support in promoting their destination in the media and online, a sculpture for their city centre, a promotional video on their destination and smart tourism offer, and many other promotional actions from the EU that are designed to raise the profile of the city and boost visitor numbers.

How are the winners selected?

Applications will first be evaluated by a panel of independent experts. In the second step, up to seven shortlisted cities will be invited to present their city’s candidature in front of the European Jury. The European Jury selects the two European Capitals of Smart Tourism 2022. To apply, city representatives are asked to complete this online form. The deadline for applications is 16 June 2021 at 17:00 CET.

More details are available here.

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