Space data to make the tourism industry sustainable

The reasons for travelling to Europe are endless: its history, culture, natural landscapes, the lifestyle, these are only a few of the many wonders to see and experience. Europe hosts 517 cultural and natural UNESCO world heritage sites, the highest number in the world. Every year, Europe attracts millions of tourists reaching according to estimates of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), peaks of about 700 million, at least before the pandemic.

Tourism currently accounts directly for the 4% of the EU GDP expanding to 10% including all the indirect links with other sectors, supporting a consistent share of job creation, social development, and economic growth for the region.

Over the last decades improvements in communications – road, rail and air travel and the consequent decrease of costs coupled with a general enhanced standard of living and more disposable income, among others favored the phenomenon of mass tourism. Together with increased human activities and climate-derived degradation, cultural and natural heritages are at risk affecting the attractiveness of these destinations and reducing economic opportunities for local communities. Sea level rising, acidification, warmer temperatures, and extreme weather events can endanger seasonal tourism, which sometimes represents the only source of revenues for inhabitants.

According to the UNWTO/International Transport Forum (ITF) research “Transport-related CO2 emissions from the tourism sector”, CO2 emissions will tend to increase worldwide by 25% by 2030. At the COP25 held in 2019 in Madrid, international tourism stakeholders called global leaders to support the sector to become more climate resilient by proposing to scale up climate action in tourism to limit the consequences on the industry.

Innovation and digital resources can play a key role in monitoring climate indicators to take informed decision. High-tech solutions have been already adopted in tourism to improve tourists’ experiences and to ease logistics. Space data could integrate a set of arrays providing a cost-effective tool to monitor tourism flows, to track new tourist paths, to facilitate mobility, or to better manage extreme weather events.

In 2018, Eurisy started to explore how space data and solutions can help city managers, public authorities, touristic operators, and tourists themselves. The focus of Space4Culture is on how satellite data can assists to manage historical cities, monitoring and safeguarding cultural heritage, and how it enables creative minds to generate new ways to experience the culture.  In the “Satellites Going Local- Culture edition” report, Eurisy collected use cases dedicated to the topic that can provide an overview of the existing satellite-based solutions in the sector.

Safeguarding the Green and Blue Open Spaces of Malta’s Grand Harbour

Dirk De Ketelaere, Senior Researcher at Integrated Resources Management Company Ltd (IRMCo), shared the outcomes of the EU-interreg funded project Mare Nostrum, in which IRMCo encouraged citizens and local authorities residing in the Malta’s Grand Harbour to present action plans to protect and safeguard green areas and blue open spaces. IRMCo invited local communities in Malta’s Grand Harbour to come up with action plans to protect and safeguard the areas green and blue open spaces. Considering the attractiveness of the Grand Harbour area known for its historical and natural sites, locals have been invited to map the places of interest (cultural, historical, archaeological, and ecological) and to create eco-heritage trails to connect these places by using satellite imagery and open crowdsourced data.

The eco-heritage trails are available online and can be downloaded by any tourist looking to discover the Grand Harbour.

Green-tech for Sustainable tourism

Tarek Habib, CEO, and co-founder of Murmuration, presented the importance of green-tech for a more sustainable tourism and how  it can support professionals in the sector.

Murmuration’s mission is to use satellite data and green technology to address several major issues facing sustainable tourism professionals: enabling tourism destinations to operate and grow, reducing the pressure of urban centres, and bringing economic benefits to communities beyond tourist hotspots. To do so, Murmuration developed a dashboard for decision makers and tourists professionals where environmental impacts indicators can be continuously monitored.

The platform Flockeo, encourages sustainable tourism by offering travelers a map of the world to know the environmental impact on destinations. It facilitates tourists to travel more responsibly by mapping different environmental indicators.

Using Space Technologies to Innovate Tourism

The last two speakers of the day were Elena Cholakova, Head of Innovation Project at the World Tourism Forum Lucerne (WTFL), and Davide Coppola, Business Development Manager at the European Space Agency Business Applications.

The WTFL is the leading interactive platform of the tourism industry, where CEOs, ministers, academia, investors, start-ups, and young talents exchange and discuss how to collectively address future challenges of the sector to shape a more sustainable future.

The experts highlighted how space technology is currently getting a momentum. For instance, during the Covid-19 pandemic satellite communication and its anywhere anytime connectivity allowed museums and cultural sites to keep their virtual doors open.

To further promote and stimulate the interest of start-ups and SMEs with ideas and projects for the tourism industry, the WTFL in cooperation with ESA joined forces to support innovative tourism business projects leveraging on space technologies to help the sector in digitalising and becoming more sustainable. The funding opportunity will be opened in October 2021 and will address ESA Member States. More information about their joint initiative can be found here, or join the Space for Tourism Working Group.

Funding and Innovation Opportunities

In the frame of the Horizon Europe funding scheme, multiple funding calls are indirectly addressing tourism by looking at topics as food security, bioeconomy, natural resources, agriculture and environment. Space technology can be a key enabler to develop innovative solution in all the above sectors.

Besides the Horizon Europe open calls, the UNWTO launched a call on an equal and sustainable future for tourism Global Rural Tourism Start-Up Competition. The mission is to accelerate rural development through a slower tourism whilst achieving the SDGs.

With this session, the Space Opportunities for Climate Challenges webinar series has come to a conclusion. All previous sessions are available at our website, and much more is yet to come. Stay tuned for future webinars and subscribe to our Newsletter to stay up-to-date with Eurisy’s activities.

For all the presentations and recordings visit the Open Campus Forum, or find an overview of every session in the Related Activities section on the top right of this page.