Gothenburg, Málaga Named European Capitals of Smart Tourism for 2020

Author: Curtis Wagner       

European Capital of Smart Tourism

Rail cars travel over the Kungsportsbron bridge in central Gothenburg. The city’s future-oriented public transport systems helped it achieve a European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 designation. (Per Pixel Petersson/Göteborg & Co)

Convene’s recent cover story, “Loved to Death,” spotlighted how a growing number cities around the world are grappling with the challenges of overtourism. That’s not the case for Gothenburg, Sweden, and Málaga, Spain — two destinations that have just been recognized for their creative approaches to tourism development.

The European Commission announced on Oct. 9 during a ceremony at the European Tourism Forum in Helsinki that both cities were named winners of the European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 competition.

The commission presents the honor to two cities each year, aimed at rewarding cities with the most innovative and inclusive approaches to tourism development. The initiative promotes smart tourism in the EU, fosters innovative, sustainable and inclusive tourism development and the exchange of best practices. It recognizes achievements in four categories: accessibility, sustainability, digitalization, and cultural heritage and creativity.

This year, 35 cities from 17 European Union member states competed. After 10 cities were shortlisted, they were invited to present their cases in front of the European Jury in Helsinki.

Gothenburg and Málaga impressed the European Jury not only with their achievements across all four categories of the competition, but also with the impressive programs of activities they intend to implement during 2020, and their capacity to act as role models for other cities.

In awarding Málaga, the European Commission said the coastal city leads the way “in involving the local community and working to sow the seeds of smart tourism on an educational level.”

The jury also awarded Gothenburg in the sustainability category, citing its digital solutions for traffic and transport, open data, and sustainability measures. These “future-oriented solutions” are helping improve experiences for both citizens and tourists, the EC said on the Smart Tourism Capital website. The city owns the No. 1 ranking on Global Destination Sustainability Index for 2018, the latest rankings.

Other individual honors went to Breda, The Netherlands, in the accessibility category; Ljubljana, Slovenia, in digitalization; and Karlsruhe, Germany, in cultural heritage and creativity.

The European Capital of Smart Tourism competition is open to cities in the EU with a population more than 100,000 inhabitants. In EU countries where no city has more than 100,000 inhabitants, the largest city is eligible to apply.

Curt Wagner is a Convene associate editor.

European Capital of Smart Tourism

Plaza la Malagueta, a bull ring and museum, sits between housing and park land in Málaga, Spain. The coastal city’s commitment to green space helped it achieve European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020 status. (Roberto Sorin/Adobe Stock)