Written evidence submitted by Dr. Eleni Michopoulou, Dr. Iride Azara and Professor Marc Cowling




Call for Evidence: Promoting Britain Abroad


1.              Introduction


Dr. Eleni Michopoulou is an Associate Professor in Business Management at the University of Derby. Her area of specialism relates to Accessible Tourism Information Systems and her research interests include technological applications and information systems in tourism, online consumer behaviour and technology acceptance. She has over fifteen years’ experience of research in this field and has published over seventy academic journal articles in a variety of high impact journals. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Spa and Wellness. She is a founding member of the Wellness Tourism Initiative, which is part of the Global Wellness Institute.


Dr. Iride Azara is a Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Events and Masters Scheme Leader for Postgraduate taught courses in this field at the University of Derby. Her area of specialism is in the changing dynamics of cultural tourism practices such as heritage, festivals, and events and how these can be used as opportunities for the sustainable revitalisation of communities and destinations. She has an extensive publication record and sits on the European editorial board for the International Journal of Spa and Wellness.


Professor Marc Cowling is Professor of Business Economics and Head of Research and Innovation in the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences at the University of Derby. He has held a variety of senior posts including acting as Chief Economist for the Institute of Employment Studies and The Work Foundation, Head of Research at Brighton Business School, and Director of the Research Centre for Industrial Strategy at the Birmingham Business School. Professor Cowling has been ranked in the top 7 per cent of economists in the world by citations (H-index) and in the top 2.5 per cent of researchers on ResearchGate.


2.              Executive Summary


Within this response to the recent Call for Select Committee Evidence under the heading ‘Promoting Britain Abroad’, we have collaborated to share our expertise to address the question ‘What needs to be done to re-establish the UK as a holiday destination for international travellers?’ We argue that to increase the attractiveness and competitiveness of the UK as a tourism destination, tourism offerings should be developed that address particular market needs. This report prioritises different customer markets in the form of the Accessible Tourism Market and the Cultural Heritage Tourism Market. It then highlights their importance of these for the overall destination image. Finally, it proposes strategies to attract and serve those markets. 


3.              What needs to be done to re-establish the UK as a holiday destination for international travellers?


Accessible Tourism (AT) Market


              Accessibility Market Importance


              Accessibility is important not just for people with disabilities (PwD), but for a greater proportion of society: including those that may suffer from temporal impairment (i.e., a broken leg); the elderly who often display combinations of multiple impairments (i.e., weak hearing and mobility); or simply for parents with prams or travellers with heavy luggage. The accessibility-requiring market is becoming gradually more and more important as:






Additional Benefits of Developing Accessible Tourism Organisations and Destinations




Cultural Heritage Tourism market

Cultural heritage market importance

Cultural heritage plays an important role in societal wellbeing and quality of life, enriching the lives of citizens, connecting people and places, and helping to build a more cohesive society with shared values and identity [25, 39]. Cultural heritage is also economically important as it offers opportunities for employment and, from a tourism perspective, it provides international and domestic tourists with authentic encounters at destination level [26, 27]. In the UK, in 2019 this market generated a total of 36.6 bn GVA, providing employment opportunities for more than 563,509 people [28].

Addressing the needs of the cultural heritage market is of strategic importance to the UK for a number of reasons:



Additional Benefits of Developing Culture heritage Tourism Organisations and Destinations



4.              Recommendations for Action


The Way Forward: Smart Accessibility


Accessibility can be used as a strategy for destination competitiveness [10, 11]. However, it should be addressed in three different levels by considering:


a) accessible paths from travellers’ point of origin to the destination;

b) accessible paths within a destination (i.e. from the hotel to a restaurant and then to a museum);

c) accessibility within a venue (i.e. within a hotel, from reception to the room)[5].


This requires understanding of the market [12], and collaboration and information sharing between key players in the tourism ecosystem across different sectors of the visitor economy (including transport, tour operators, accommodation, attractions, spas etc)[13-15].


At this point, it is important to consider the role of technology in facilitating and enabling value co-creation within the AT ecosystem at destinations [16-20]. The use of ICTs as a strategic competitive advantage has long been recognised by destinations, and many have or are in the process of becoming ‘smart’ destinations. The concept of smartness assumes that technology is embedded in all components of the destination and it manifests through different types of technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) [21], Augmented (AR) Virtual (VR) [22] or Mixed Reality (XR) [23], and Near Field Communication (NFC).  The array of such technologies enables the multitude of AT stakeholders (both primary and secondary, including public sector organisations, tourism providers, local businesses, residents as well as tourists) to ‘plug and play’, optimising operations for the supply side and improving experiences for the demand side of AT.  Hence, by integrating and sharing near-real-time real-world data, destinations have the distinct advantage of responding to both business and travellers needs in a more direct, efficient, and effective manner [10].


This is important for the demand side of AT, be it tourists or local residents. Participating in tourism and leisure activities has traditionally been cumbersome if not impossible for many PwDs across destinations. Whilst there is a proliferation of technology use across tourism markets and it is evident in peoples’ daily lives, it is perhaps intensified within the bounds of AT. For PwDs, planning and participating in tourism and leisure endeavours is an exceptionally information-intensive activity. ICTs are therefore predominately used to access, collect, and process accessibility-related information both before as well as during these endeavours. As important as it may be to process information before the trip (especially by those restricted by the veto principle) ICTs and smart technologies can be particularly useful during leisure activities at location. For instance, in smart destinations users have access to real time data which can help mitigate negative implications of unforeseen events (i.e., dealing with road/service closures and finding suitable accessible alternatives).


In conclusion, we propose that destinations should focus on both accessibility and smartness as key drivers of competitiveness [24]. Whilst some destinations have already adopted accessibility guidelines and design for all principles in their strategies as a means of competitive advantage and others have successfully embraced the concept of smart cities and smart destinations, it is the implementation of smart accessibility that can really drive innovation forward. Hence, smart accessible destinations will empower co-creation of innovative living working and playing conditions, resulting in constant dynamic engagement with all stakeholders delivering value for all.


The Way Forward: Cultural and Heritage tourism experiences co-creation

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, it is anticipated that both cultural heritage providers and visitors will eventually adapt to the “post COVID” era.  In this context, co-creating experience value will be crucial for the attraction of international cultural heritage tourists.

Experience value co-creation is seen as beneficial for its capability to increase the overall perception of service satisfaction and quality and reduce the investment levels on the providers side. However, for value to be co-created, rather than co-produced [26], the customer has to be an active participant of the value creation process throughout all the stages of the customer journey. Focusing on co-created experiences design, cultural heritage providers can generate as well as sustain long term business value [36] .

Considering the monetary and non-material importance of cultural heritage for society, destinations and attraction providers should focus on building a sustainable, resilient sector, taking every opportunity for further developments and adapt to changing consumers as well as situations.

Research shows that the global pandemic is affecting international tourists´ attitudes and behaviours towards the use of technology in cultural heritage tourism experiences [32, 31]. Therefore, a thorough investigation of the impacts the pandemic is having on cultural heritage visitors’ attitudes and behaviour towards technology-enhanced cultural heritage experiences will enable providers to a) better respond to changing consumer needs by meaningfully engaging with processes of experience value co-creation; and, b) gain sustainable competitive advantage by increasing the service quality, satisfaction and their business revenues [26].

Research has shown that value co-creation can be significantly enhanced using technology, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) [22]. However, so far the adoption of technology to enable the co-design of cultural heritage experiences has been varying across the sector as not all UK cultural heritage providers especially in rural destinations have the necessary infrastructure; and (or) funding to design and manage such experiences [29, 26]. Thus, an investigation of providers’ attitudes towards incorporating aspects of technology in the co-creation of heritage experience value could bring significant benefits [32].

Specifically, heritage providers will be able to:

a)       Justify investments in the value co-creation processes and heritage visitor experiences enhanced by technology.

b)       Gain sustainable competitive advantage and increase revenue.

c)        Increase service quality and customer satisfaction (= returning customers).

Although these actions will mainly impact the UK based cultural heritage sector, it is expected the results may be transferable to international contexts as well, supporting the cross – national sectors’ collaboration. 


References and Further Information


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2.              Buhalis, D. and E. Michopoulou, Information Enabled Tourism Destination Marketing: Addressing the Accessibility Market. Current Issues in Tourism, 2011. 14(2): p. pp. 145-168.

3.              HM Government, National Disability Strategy. July 2021.

4.              Dowden, O. and N. Huddleston, The Tourism Recovery Plan, C. Department for Digital, Media & Sport, Editor. June 2021.

5.              Michopoulou, E. and D. Buhalis, Information Provision for Challenging Markets: The Case of the Accessibility Requiring Market in the Context of Tourism. Information and Management, 2013. 50(5): p. pp. 229-239.

6.              Humanity & Inclusion UK. Disability: The global picture. 2021; Available from: https://humanity-inclusion.org.uk/en/action/disability-the-global-picture.

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8.              Broich, I. and E. Michopoulou, Can Accessible Tourism Be Sustainable? A Link between Accessibility and Sustainability, in World Summit Destinations for All. 2014: Montreal, Canada.

9.              United Nations, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in Article 30 – Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. 2006.

10.              Michopoulou, E., D. Buhalis, and S. Darcy, Smart accessibility: Improving destination competitiveness through value co-creation, in International Conference on Smart, Sustainable, Social and Accessible Tourism (SSAT21). 2021, online: Portugal

11.              Karadimitriou, C., A. Kyriakaki, and E. Michopoulou, Accessible Tourism as a Transformational Force for Tourism and Hospitality, in Emerging Transformations in Tourism and Hospitality, N. Pappas and A. Farmaki, Editors. 2021, Routledge

12.              Rubio-Escuderos, L., et al., Perspectives on Experiences of Tourists With Disabilities: Implications For Their Daily Lives And For The Tourist Industry. Tourism Recreation Research, 2021.

13.              Michopoulou, E. and S. Hilton, Accessibility to Spa Experiences, in ICT Tools and Applications for Accessible Tourism, C. Eusébio, L. Teixeira, and M.J. Carneiro, Editors. 2021, IGI Global: Hershey, PA.

14.              Michopoulou, E. and D. Buhalis, Accessible Tourism Stakeholder Analysis, in Accessible Tourism Concepts/Issues: Inclusion, Disability, Ageing Population and Tourism, D. Buhalis and S. Darcy, Editors. 2011, Multichannel Publications: Bristol.

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24.              Michopoulou, E., et al., Accessible tourism futures: the world we dream to live in and the opportunities we hope to have. Journal of Tourism Futures, 2015. 1(3): p. 179-188.

25.      Historic England. Heritage and Society. 2020. Available from: https://historicengland.org.uk/research/heritage-counts/heritage-and-society/

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39.               Azara, I., Wiltshier, P. and Greatorex, J., Against all odds. The case of Shrovetide Royal Festival. 2018. In Event Management. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3727/152599517X15111988553964

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