The connected tourism revolution in Brussels
A multitude of digital and technological innovations are helping to revolutionise the hospitality industry. Its future is without a doubt, mobile, ultra-personalised and accessible. Brussels has a hand to play in the revolution! A meeting with Brussels-based entrepreneurs who are daring to bring tourism into a new era: the digital era.
“The audio-guide has to be taken out of its display case”. This statement, delivered point-blank by Xavier Langhendries, co-founder of the startup OhMyGuide!, set the tone for the networking evening titled “Brussels, a connected destination”, which was held last 19 September by hub.brussels at the prestigious Musée des Sciences Naturelles.
Organised by our hospitality.brussels and software.brussels clusters in cooperation with visit.brussels, the objective of this event was to build a bridge between players in the tourism and digital industries. Because the future of the former is intrinsically linked to the latter in this time and era of the mobile internet. “It’s essential that we bring tourists into the digital era”, announced Isabelle Grippa, CEO of hub.brussels. And, Patrick Bontinck, CEO of visit.brussels, added that: “Culture must change its digital business model in order to have a presence in the world”.
59% of tourists are seeking an experience
The numbers speak for themselves: according to booking.com, 59% of travellers say they prefer to invest in a true experience rather than in a material good during their stay. 70% of them also own a smartphone.
But in order for tourism “3.0” to develop, two seemingly contradictory worlds must be brought together. “The recipe for intelligent innovation in the tourism sector? Combine the digital startup’s agility and capacity for innovation with the knowledge of local players in tourism”, explains Sophie Lacour, who holds a PhD in information sciences and communication.
This is where our hospitality.brussels cluster comes into play: “To stimulate digital innovation, we regularly put people in the tourism sector in contact with digital companies we know through hub.brussels’ screen.brussels (audiovisual) and software.brussels clusters”, explains Véronique Renard, her manager. hospitality.brussels, hub.brussels’ two-year-old cluster, brings together Tourism, Culture and Events companies and players in Brussels.
They are revolutionizing the tourism sector...
Data collection in the tourism sector involves a need for personalisation because it must enable the sector to adapt its offering to make it as customisable as possible.
It’s time to stir things up and bring people from every walk of life into museums: inventors, tinkerers, curious people and people who are interested in exploring new ways to be involved with cultural institutions.
Today, we have to provide a real cultural and fun experience which can be personalised as wanted. Tourism must be experienced differently, and this can only happen through the digitalisation of the sector.
Tourism 3.0: when culture comes back to life
In this new dimension, dinosaurs extinct for 200 million years, suddenly come back to life before incredulous eyes. A visitor equipped with VR goggles plays the part of a mummifier in Ancient Egypt. Another visitor wearing headphones shivers on hearing the majestic song of the whale whose skeleton is suspended above them. Or on hearing the trumpeting of a mammoth, whose tusks point heavenwards.
The divide between reality and the virtual world crumbles, almost imperceptibly, and an experience is born.
Demute studio: the sound of Magic
“Sound can absolutely be the link between the virtual world and the real world and it doesn’t require a screen. It’s immersive and easy to implement because headphones are already a part of daily life.”
Demute.studio, a company which specialises in immersive and interactive audio experiences, chose to apply these technologies to the culture sector: “Up until now, the sound dimension has been given very little thought in cultural spaces; in addition, these grandiose spaces have very poor acoustics”, explains François Fripiat.
With the right tools, sound can play a major role, both in terms of immersion and augmentation. Visitors are transported into a new sound reality, without a visual headset. They can then experience the space and objects as they really are, while their imagination and emotions, guided by the sound triggered automatically as they approach, provide a new dimension.
The creators believe that to be truly immersive, the experience must hide the technology. “When we create an interactive and immersive world without visible technology, we begin to create magic!”
Museomix: people make museums
“Despite the crowds roaming the paths of the beautiful park nearby, very few people enter through the doors of our museum”. Searching for a solution to address this problem, the Mariemont museum in Hainaut province responded to the call for candidates from Brussels-based Museomix in 2015.
Created in Paris in 2011, Museomix can be likened to a hackathon. Its objective? Reconnect people with museums. For three days, volunteers from all backgrounds, both amateurs and professionals, come together to imagine the museum of the future by creating functional cultural outreach prototypes. The highly acclaimed initiative has already proven itself in numerous European museums. Subsidised by the public authorities, the project is also supported by COOPCITY through its SEED programme, which works to ensure the sustainability of social projects in Brussels.
Museomix gave birth to an interactive, augmented-reality mummification prototype at the Mariemont museum. The idea, completely free of copyright, can be adapted by other museums, in the open data spirit.
Oh My Guide!: when culture plays
Oh My Guide! is a mobile application that seeks to use games to (re)explore places and broadcast messages. While playing, the user develops a different perspective on what they are learning or discovering. The itineraries offered by museums or tourism offices, which seem set in stone, take on a completely new dimension.
For its creators, it’s simply about experiencing tourism differently: “Gamification is a medium for culture and learning”. Their side project, Wannapplay, which provides gamification services for events and company communications, won at the 2019 hub.awards.
The final goal for Xavier Langhendries and Julien Descurieux? Make C2C tourism, created for and by the user/tourist, a reality.
Utopian? Maybe. Or maybe not.