Promoting tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina during COVID-19: Smartphone as a travel companion in the Sutjeska National Park
Sutjeska, the oldest and largest national park in Bosnia and Herzegovina, annually attracts over 100,000 visitors who come to see the cultural and historical heritage in Tjentište, the Perućica rainforest or to conquer the highest peak of the country Maglić. All visitors are obliged to have a guide on their tours – but due to lack of staff or insufficient language skills, this has been causing problems to the park management problems, which have deepened with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Czech company SmartGuide came up with an innovative solution under the Challenge Fund initiative – it designed a mobile application that opens up completely new sightseeing and tourism opportunities in Sutjeska with just a few clicks.
The SmartGuide application, which is free to download for Android or iOS, uses the principle of geolocation, sound and augmented reality and introduces its users to the park without the need for a guide in four world languages, including Czech. Using geolocation, it automatically informs visitors about all the sights and places of interest that are located in the area.
“Many destinations and attractions have difficulty digitizing their content. Digitization is often too expensive and requires outsourcing, which will cause these costly applications to disappear after two or three years, ”explains Alexandra Lopez-Nadal, who is working on the project,“ our goal is to help destinations focus on the most essential- that is attracting tourists and providing information about the places they can visit. “
The application, which is suitable for hiking, cycling and camping, offers visitors the opportunity to contact the park administration directly in case of danger and call an ambulance service, which is faster and more efficient thanks to geolocation. Likewise, the park management can use SmartGuide to inform about weather changes and closures of accommodation or other tourist facilities. The application can also be used offline, and for the convenience of visitors, the project plans to install charging stations on the main routes of the park.
“Our project not only improves the visibility and attendance of the park between domestic and foreign guests but also acts as a link between its management and visitors,” says Alexandra, “thanks to the application, the park management has an effective platform for communicating with tourists and can offer them o the better quality and fuller experience. “
The SmartGuide guide is coming at the right time also because of the current COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when tourism has declined and tourists are looking for a way to avoid large guide groups and unhygienic audio devices, the mobile application is an ideal solution that promotes smart and safe travel.