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The European Capitals of Smart Tourism inspiring other cities on tourism recovery

For the past year the world has been facing an unprecedented global health, social and economic emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid global travel restrictions to contain the virus, travel and tourism are among the most affected sectors. During this challenging time, the 2020 European Capitals of Smart Tourism, Gothenburg and Málaga have been implementing smart tourism initiatives throughout their urban areas. In doing so, they are offering inspiration for forward thinking destinations and making urban tourism more sustainable, accessible and digital. 



The city is leading the way in digital solutions to improve experiences for both citizens and tourists. This includes using tech and open data to facilitate traffic, transport and to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. 95% of the city’s hotels are green certified and 97% of its public transport runs on renewable energy. In fact, Gothenburg has been at the top of the Global Destinations Sustainability Index since 2016.

Gothenburg will shortly launch its digital twin: Virtual Gothenburg. This digital city will make it easier to visualise and simulate various urban development projects. Open data plays a central role in the city’s strategy, which is why Göteborg & Co are investing in developing a concept and prototype for a destination data platform that will form the basis of a long-term effort to become one of Europe’s leading knowledge hubs in the hospitality industry.

The Liseberg amusement park, one of Sweden’s most popular attractions, also recently introduced a virtual queuing system. Furthermore, the city has launched a new website: www.101sustainableideas.com aimed at gathering innovative and sustainable ideas to improve the tourism experience in cities around the world. 

The tourism businesses have been focusing on digitalisation projects and the development of new services and products. Some examples of their collaboration with the city authority include: Digital destination data platform, Hybrid meetings & eventsDigital site visits and ‘Experience Gothenburg online’  

The recovery of Gothenburg’s tourism industry from the COVID-19 pandemic is built up through education and financial support. 

On a national level the tourism businesses are receiving support from the national Swedish Agency for Economic and regional growth, short-time work allowances and support packages to aid tourism businesses suffering from reduced turnover.  

Local support in Gothenburg includes the new project ‘Restart: Innovation in crisis-stricken SMEs in the hospitality industry’ aimed at small and medium sized businesses, offering them courses, lectures and workshops to help generate their own tailored analysis and action plans.

 The emphasis on education has been a cornerstone for Gothenburg’s support for businesses with the hosting of eight-week web education in 2020 geared towards educating the hospitality industry in such topics ranging from sustainability to marketing, business and personal development.   

In line with a new assignment from the Swedish government, Visit Sweden has adapted its target groups and tourism communication to address the national market.

Gothenburg is planning to decrease its transportation emissions to zero in the near future, open a new water park and celebrate the city’s 400 years anniversary in 2021-2023. 



Málaga stands out as one of the world’s most diverse tourism destinations, with a wide portfolio of tourism resources that can match any travel motivation, including: culture, sun, the beach, gastronomy, nature, sport and MICE. 


Through the Málaga SMART project, the city is demonstrating its commitment to the digital transformation of all aspects of city life – from an app to check how crowded local beaches are, to the implementation of energy management systems in all public buildings.

Málaga’s progressive approach to open data is also helping businesses make better decisions, by making over 2,000 resources available online.

Part of Málaga’s innovative approach, is to cast a wide net for good ideas. That’s why the city hosts hackathons with prizes for smart solutions.  

Within just two decades, the city has gone from having 4 museums to 37, including the Centre Pompidou Málaga, the Automobile & Fashion Museum and the Russian Museum Collection — Saint Petersburg.

Travellers can download the Málaga Pass app to guide themselves through the attractions and enter museums without queuing.

Furthermore, Málaga, offers public bike hiring across 23 different access points in the city and more than 23,000 people are already making use of the service.  

Aiming to support the recovery of tourism from the pandemic, the Málaga City Council launched on 13 November 2020 the COVID-19 early detection programme ‘Málaga Safe for You’. 

 Its main objective is to reinforce Málaga as a safe destination and to guarantee spaces of trust in the tourism, culture and commerce industries thanks to rapid COVID-19 antigen testing.

 The companies that participate in this campaign are given a badge to be displayed on a prominent and visible place in the establishment. This means that the employees of the affiliated establishment participate in the rapid antigen test programme.   

Furthermore, Málaga has been supported by a series of nationwide campaigns designed to support the tourism industry in showcasing not only its precautionary measures and safe spaces but also the wide array of activities that the city has to offer.

The city has been actively and directly supporting tourist businesses by offering a range of courses designed to support the operators and owners in the reactivation of their businesses.  


Additionally, a working group between Málaga Airport, AENA, Costa del Sol Tourism and the Tourism Department of the city was reactivated to re-establish air connections in the European markets.  To compliment this, a Strategic Tourism Plan for the City of Málaga 2021-2024 has been drafted to establish a development plan for the tourism industry. It is based on the axes of sustainability, smart tourism and diversification of supply (multi-segmentation) and of the region (multi-centrality).  


Find out more about the 2020 European Capitals of Smart Tourism here: 

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