Photo: TURISMO DO ALGARVE

Algarve unveils plan to become “smart region” using technology

An all-encompassing project to turn the Algarve into a “smart region” by incorporation digital technology into almost every aspect of the region’s management was unveiled this week.

Entitled ‘Região Inteligente Algarve’ (Smart Region Algarve), the project aims to use technology to improve the region’s management of everything from public transportation to water, to create a new digital platform aimed at tourists with information about the Algarve, or even to inform citizens about “calamities” such as wildfires.

These are still early days, however. The project will begin soon with a “diagnostic study” to be carried out by consultants Deloitte and completed within four months

The study will be used as the basis for a “strategic plan” for the region, due to be implemented by December 2022.

“The project had already been drawn up before the pandemic, with the goal being to respond more appropriately to the needs of residents and tourists and face the challenges of digital transformation,” João Fernandes, president of the Algarve tourism board (RTA), told Expresso newspaper.

According to the tourism chief, the pandemic has made the project even more important and has already “taught us some lessons and given us some knowledge.”

Also backing the €1.1 million project – 80% of which will be covered by community funding via the CRESC Algarve 2020 programme – is the regional development commission (CCDR Algarve), the University of Algarve (UAlg) and the Algarve municipalities association (AMAL).

The first goal is to establish “where we are in terms of being a smart destination” and see “which are the best practices on an international level in order to design a strategic plan that is adapted to the region,” he said.

According to Fernandes, this is a path that “all tourist destinations are embracing, but we have to know how to pursue this ambition.

“That is why we hired Deloitte. We have to study this very well first in order to not waste financial resources. This will be an important step to making investments in the best-suited technologies for us,” the tourism boss said.

Water management, a critical area for the Algarve, will be a cornerstone of the project.

“Water is so important that during the first lockdown last year a strategic plan for water efficiency in the Algarve was created,” said Fernandes, adding that the plan indicated that golf courses should be watered mainly with treated wastewater – a recommendation that is already being followed at Castro Marim’s golf courses which use water from the Vila Real de Santo António water treatment plan, reports Expresso.

The goal is to extend this idea to other areas, as well as to improve the “water efficiency of both residential and tourist lodging buildings,” Fernandes added.
Another major goal will be to improve the region’s public transportation networks. The overriding objective will be to make public transportation a viable option for tourists and locals.

RIA will also attempt to improve the region’s communication with its visitors.

“With the pandemic we became more aware of some specific needs,” said Fernandes, adding that it is “very important” to have the adequate tool to pass on information.

“In a situation like the pandemic we are living, we can communicate with tourists in their own language and adjust the message to different audiences,” the tourism chief said.

“With a strong digital platform, we will be able to communicate better with tourists, let them know what they can do or visit. The issue is these tools are not yet available,” he added.

michael.bruxo@algareveresident.com