Marta Ciudad

O-CITY, the Interactive Digital Atlas at the service of Sustainable Tourism

O-CITY: culture, nature and education for the social sustainability of tourism

The - Orange economy, Creativity, Innovation and Technology - project, funded by the European Commission under the Erasmus Plus programme, is developing a technological tool to visualise the natural and cultural heritage of towns and cities around the world on a digital map. In this atlas, cities can represent not only their monuments and natural spaces, but also their culture and traditions through videos, photographs, animations and other multimedia elements that can be implemented in the field of education as sustainable development projects.

O-CITY a global project born in Valencia

Thirteen partners from six different countries -Spain, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Serbia and Colombia-, led by the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV) at its Gandia Campus have built this project over three years (2019-2021) aligned with three fundamental objectives.

Firstly, O-CITY is an instrument to support the discovery and promotion of culture, heritage, traditions and the natural environment of cities around the world; secondly, it involves the introduction of innovative educational tools that connect culture with education to improve the social sustainability of tourism; and thirdly, it proposes the digital transformation of traditional economic sectors through the training of professionals and the economic promotion of cities through cultural and natural tourism.

Throughout the development process of the project, cities have been joining the O-CITY world. The first six cities, Gandia, Matera, Larisa, Novi Sad, Kranj and Barranquilla, were the driving forces behind the project through their partners and with them the O-CITY heritage cataloguing methodology was developed, classified according to UNESCO: cultural, natural and mixed; tangible and intangible; mobile and immobile. Today, more than 1000 heritage elements in 400 cities around the world can be visited on the platform, and utilities have been implemented for the creation of attractive tourist routes and marketing tools, especially designed for humble destinations, with few resources, but proud of a culture and traditions that deserve to be shared with the rest of the world.

A collaborative platform

After the genesis of the project, the validation of the tool has been carried out thanks to the interest aroused in various institutions:

Instituto Seda España (ISE) in the project "Plataforma Inteligente Rs3 Ruta de la Seda CV", funded by Turisme Generalitat Valenciana, carried out the integration of data from different sources into a single application with the aim of improving the experience of tourists in the destinations. The O-CITY heritage data were connected to this platform through the API developed. Currently, the ISE integrates the O-CITY tool in flagship projects such as "Bioseda Creativa" or "Biogaleón", use cases, at the tourism level, of data sharing space for neutral and inclusive experiences.

The Provincial Council of Valencia has registered the heritage of its 266 municipalities on the platform as a preliminary step to the implementation of a major social project aimed at its counties to enhance the value of the culture, heritage and traditions of the territory. This fact has contributed to O-CITY data being used in a project funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI) for the development of tourism recommenders through artificial intelligence algorithms or that they are being used in the UPV's Degree in Data Science for the training of future professionals with knowledge of tourism intelligence.

Currently O-CITY connects with professional tourism applications with an interest in building data interoperability projects in Smart Tourism Destinations (DTI), and destination managers find in the application a non-profit tool that contributes to the DTI indexes and stabilises the heritage in a tool managed by a European public administration.

Countries such as Ukraine and Uzbekistan have expressed interest in carrying out the inventory of their heritage in O-CITY, being a clear example of the international potential of the tool with its cooperative nature and sustainability values placed at the service of society, in the face of something as necessary to conserve as world heritage.

Applicability of O-CITY

In this context, the combination of the responsive application of distributed management that is the map and the educational platform represent an ideal tool for the enhancement of UNESCO routes as emblematic for the history of humanity as the "Silk Road" or the "Manila Galleon".

These routes, which not only linked half the world commercially, but also transmitted the cultures of the peoples they passed through, find in technology a new conductor of knowledge.

In the same way, O-CITY has implications in different sectors that form part of the life cycle of tourism activity, starting with the traveller who is about to choose a destination, to the managers of the destination as part of the process of conversion into DTI.

Similarly, O-CITY can be of great use to travel agencies in the design of their products, as well as to travellers who want to delve deeper into what each destination offers at any point in the Traveller Journey Map or Customer Experience Map in tourism, especially in the stages of destination decision, trip planning and visit.

It is worth noting that O-CITY is offered to transport companies as an on-board entertainment tool, as it allows them to visualise the attractions of the destination to which they are travelling.


New horizons

In its constant desire for progress, the platform is evolving in the direction of new technologies at the service of tourist experiences, especially in the trip planning phase. Having a 360-degree or augmented reality view of the tourist resource that interests the traveller is a great incentive in their decision making towards that destination or territory.

Also committed to the future, O-CITY has on its agenda to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations, so its actions are aligned to contribute to these. In this direction, O-CITY is working on the creation of a programme that pays special attention to four of them, due to the specific weight they have in the values of the project. We are talking about "Quality Education", "Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions", "Gender Equality" and "Life of Terrestrial Ecosystems".

We cannot talk about the future without being fully committed to the present.

Author: Marta Ciudad

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The authors are responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of Tourism and Society Think Tank and do not commit the Organization, and should not be attributed to TSTT or its members.

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