SEGITTUR: Promoting Sustainable Tourism through Technological Innovation
In the dynamic tourism scenario, SEGITTUR emerges as a key player, leading initiatives that transform and modernise the industry. On this occasion, we interviewed Olga Pérez, Project Director of the Institutional Relations Area, who shares with us how the organisation has established itself as a benchmark in the promotion of tourism innovation.
The Sociedad Estatal para la Gestión de la Innovación y las Tecnologías Turísticas (SEGITTUR) in Spain, attached to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, aims to promote innovation (R&D&I) and the application of technologies in tourism, both in the public and private sectors. This entity was founded with the aim of boosting the competitiveness and sustainability of the tourism industry.
SEGITTUR is currently implementing a strategy based on five key lines of action, the most important of which are Digital Promotion, where it supports the projection of Spain as a tourist destination, accumulating more than fifteen years of experience in online marketing. Internationalisation, with the aim of disseminating knowledge that has positioned Spain as a world leader in tourism and supporting the expansion of tourism SMEs.
The third axis is Digital Transformation, where SEGITTUR seeks solutions to address the new needs generated by technology in tourism, collaborating with destinations and companies to improve the competitiveness of the sector in Spain.
There are also the Smart Tourism Destinations (STD), an internationally recognised model based on innovation, technology, sustainability and accessibility to ensure the present and the future of tourism. SEGITTUR is also involved in improving tourism measurement and knowledge systems.
The fifth axis is dominated by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Sustainability, and SEGITTUR is actively working to ensure that tourism contributes to meeting the SDGs of the United Nations Global Compact. The entity strives to align its actions with the principles of sustainability to make a positive contribution to the future of tourism.
On this occasion, we had the opportunity to interview Olga Pérez Pastor, Project Manager of the Institutional Relations Department of SEGITTUR. With her vast experience in the sector, she tells us about the trajectory of this company as a benchmark in the promotion of tourism innovation. She also highlights the importance of implementing good practices, the crucial role of the public sector, the circular trends that are being developed, as well as the processes that SMEs should incorporate on their way to circularity, among others.
What is the importance of highlighting good practices in circular economy for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector?
For companies, it is a way of giving visibility to their actions in the circular economy and a recognition of their good work. On the other hand, they become a reference for other companies that want to start or continue implementing sustainable initiatives and identify in them examples and actions to follow.
What is the origin and purpose of manuals designed for Destination Managers and tourism SMEs?
The initiative arises from the need for a more sustainable and balanced development model that has made the circular economy a clear commitment to key policies and funding tools, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the European Green Pact, the Spanish Circular Economy Strategy (EEEC) and the EU 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan and the Spanish Government’s Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan.
In this context, the Secretary of State for Tourism, through SEGITTUR, is committed to promoting circularity in the tourism sector by carrying out actions to boost the process of circular transformation and the development of practical materials to support destination managers and tourism companies, with the collaboration of member destinations of the Network of Smart Tourism Destinations.
How important a role can the public sector play in the design and implementation of these manuals?
Local public administration can be a good promoter of the circular vision and form of collaboration in the destination. We believe that the application of circular economy actions in an SME with a tractor effect on others is very positive, but it is at the destination level where the circular economy can develop its full potential due to the transversality of tourism, the systemic component of the circular economy and the proximity between the different agents united by the common objective of increasing the attractiveness of their destination for tourists. It is therefore essential to have a systemic vision based on the participation and collaboration of the different actors in the territory, both public and private.
According to the manuals, what are the essential circular actions to be implemented by a company that wants to start moving from a linear to a circular model?
To answer this question, I would first refer you to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which shows in a clear and well-argued way the principles of the circular economy: eliminate waste by design, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. On the other hand, the Circle Economy (a Dutch non-profit organisation) organises these principles into 8 elements, making it easier for companies to understand and identify key aspects to take into account in the process. There are 8 elements: 3 core and 5 enablers.
What are the current circular trends in the Spanish tourism sector?
Currently, actions are being implemented, supported by funding, aimed at energy efficiency, waste separation and management, the promotion of production and procurement of local supplies, digitalisation, awareness-raising and training of workers. In addition, there are key regulations and instruments with an impact on tourism, such as the draft bill to combat food waste in Spain, the Green Public Procurement Plan 2018-2025, or Law 7/2022 on Waste and Contaminated Land for a Circular Economy, which are also driving the implementation of initiatives in this area.
What areas should we focus on when incorporating the circular economy in the tourism sector?
In the manuals, the concept of circular economy is broken down into 6 vectors or areas to facilitate its understanding: energy, sustainable mobility, responsible consumption, waste, water and construction. It is important that tourism companies analyse their businesses beforehand, in order to focus their circular economy actions on those vectors that can generate the greatest impact and have the greatest potential for the transition towards a more sustainable economy.
Why is it important to adapt to these measures according to the needs of tourists?
The handbooks reference two studies on the behaviour of EU citizens regarding tourism activity which argue that consumer priorities and behaviour are changing and significantly influence the success of a destination or a tourism enterprise. In addition, there is a growing global societal awareness of sustainability. It is therefore important for destinations and tourism supply to adapt to these new demand characteristics.
What is the relevance of indicators in the actions of tourism enterprises?
As in almost everything, measurement, as a control and monitoring tool, is essential to be able to analyse the progress in the transition process towards a circular economy, as well as to identify the barriers that may be blocking this path and to be able to act on them.
A proposal is made for circularity indicators, so that each destination or company can select or incorporate new ones, as well as assigning their timeframe (short, medium and long term).
What are the most common challenges faced by tourism businesses when implementing circular economy initiatives, and how can they be effectively overcome?
For SMEs in the tourism sector in Spain, the concept of circular economy is still new. Although they are gradually making progress in some aspects of the model, such as reducing consumption or efficient waste management, small and medium-sized tourism enterprises are still hesitant to change from a linear to a circular system.
To cite two of the challenges we face: on the one hand, a lack of a clear circular economy strategy in the sector with its own vision and specific objectives, which can be implemented and results measured; and on the other, the need for awareness-raising and training to generate a sustainable and committed awareness of resource consumption among public managers, the business community and the public at large.
As I mentioned earlier, public-private collaboration is essential to promote this transition.
How can Chilean tourism SMEs assess and continuously improve their practices to align with global circular economy principles?
Establishing their own system of circularity indicators adapted to their context and associated with their initiatives in order to evaluate their success. I believe that the adoption of the circular economy is a process whose speed will be determined by the environment and, above all, by the interest of each tourism company.
In addition, the manuals propose indicators and, for public managers, reference is made to systems of indicators in which they can identify others that are more suited to the territories, such as ETIS (European Tourism Indicators System) or the UNE 178502 Standard on Indicators and tools for the Smart Tourism Destination.
In short, SEGITTUR is an efficient operator that promotes the development, modernisation and maintenance of the tourism industry through technological innovation. Its work includes the generation and management of technology, knowledge and innovation to improve competitiveness, quality and sustainability in the environmental, economic and social aspects of tourism. The entity also disseminates, promotes and implements at national and international level the good practices, knowledge and technological innovation that have consolidated Spain as a world leader in international tourism.