Dakara’s new tourist application for a SMART hotel-customer relationship
Can SMART technologies be applied to developing and emerging countries for tourism and hospitality purposes? Can SMART technology enable SMART people and SMART services? This is the heart of the “Smart Host-Guest Relationship” research project led by EHL Hospitality Business School and the American University of Beirut with the Lebanese startup Daskara app. Thanks to this collaboration, the rich database of cultural and natural landmarks collected by the social mapping of Daskara has been made “exploitable” – that is, with the possibility of designing experiences – to support a meaningful exchange between the host and guest of rural communities.
The concept of smart technology is gaining traction in different areas. In recent years we have seen the rise of smart cities, smart services, smart production and even smart destinations and smart hospitality. The idea of smart technologies is the application of new forms of digital technology to enable communication and interaction between objects that were once considered inanimate. This is made possible by extensive use of sensors and technologies that allow devices to interact and exchange information. Therefore, the quest for a definition of SMART technology is arduous due to the ever-changing and ever-changing digital landscape. However, it is possible to identify the heart of it by examining a group of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis that can enable these interconnected smart devices and sensors enabling what the we call “Internet of Things” (IOT).
In this hyper-technological landscape, one of the main objectives of smart technology is to enable the co-creation of value between actors (Boes, Buhalis and Inversini, 2016). That is, smart technologies in a service environment should be seen as a tool for the rise of smart people. Smart people are the players in the service co-creation chain who can personalize a service and make a difference to the end user by leveraging the detailed, multi-point insights provided by smart technologies. It is therefore possible to say that in the service industry, high technology (i.e. smart technologies) should enable the high touch (i.e. smart people) for the provision of a unique and co-created service.
From this perspective, the following question arises: how can smart devices support smart people? We have studied this question thanks to an HES-SO project funded by the Entrepreneurship and Appropriate Technologies section called “Intelligent relationship between host and guest”. The project was designed in collaboration with the Center for Nature and Conservation of the American University of Beirut, drawing on the experience of the Dakara project.
This project has developed a mobile application that allows the geolocation of more than 3,500 nature and culture-based attractions in 200 rural communities in Lebanon. The app also allows individuals to explore local small businesses and municipal social initiatives, and aims to benefit explorers, tourists and rural communities by increasing the visibility of areas of interest, thereby exposing them to possible national and international visits (daskaraapp.com).
The app aims to add value to the incredible amount of information collected by the Dashara team during their activities by creating an experience-based platform showcasing local service providers as advocates for their communities. With the mobile app striving to enable its users to connect with each other and thus engage in co-creating experiences, Daskara’s smart host-guest relationship feature goes one step further by allowing travelers and experience providers to play an active role. in the development of tourism and hospitality in rural areas of Lebanon.
Improve host-guest communication
The development of such functionality was achieved through a participatory action research program, where local service providers were invited to iteratively contribute to the design of the application and the definition of the technological sophistication of the tool, ensuring that the mobile application can be used effectively by tourism and hotel service providers.
The research results were quite surprising: community-based contextual elements and culture, as well as a proper audit of technology culture, should be taken into account to design digital solutions that foster a meaningful host-guest relationship. and value-driven. The new version of Dashara has indeed been designed taking into account even counter-intuitive features that have been specifically requested by local travel actors and travelers. An example above all is the direct integration of WhatsApp as a communication channel between the host and the guest: even if this can be debatable from a design point of view because the exchange takes place outside the environment of the host. Daskara mobile app, the filing work done with community residents has shown this to be a critical factor in the app’s success.
However, as the app focuses on a community-based approach, its success will depend on the critical factor which is the active engagement of the local community as well as the contribution of experts in expanding its database. Dakara, with its new smart host-guest relationship feature, has now been rolled out to Lebanese mobile app stores and its initial impact is being measured by the research team.
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