Will tech tourism help Greenville?
By Andrew Kurtz, Kopis President & CEO
It was less than two decades ago that the idea of tourism being a major economic development driver for Greenville seemed as real as the idea of Clemson becoming a national football power again.
There was talk, but what was the plan?
And yet, here we are as one of the most talked about mid-sized communities in the nation and appearing on numerous “best-of” lists (and Clemson is a national power). But the COVID-19 pandemic has left at a crossroads for numerous economic sectors including tourism.
One of the routes for both short-and –long term success could be tech tourism, which has several different meanings depending on who you are talking to. To some, tech tourism is a term given to trips where destinations are chosen because of the community’s technological advances. These are the cities and places that are on the cutting edge of technological advances. They are the early adaptors and adopters that become the beacons of truth.
In much the way that Greenville created one of the best blueprints for recreating and revitalizing a downtown, we could become a place known for helping create the education and business opportunities that engrain technology into the daily routine. The benefits are not just on an economic scale, but on a societal scale. Other cities and communities will send their representatives here to figure out how it was all accomplished.
But what if they don’t physically come? We are talking the next generation of technological advances. What if they come here virtually, which is the other major definition of what it means to be part of the tech tourism industry. So, how does that help tourism?
Augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) have also entered the travel world, and the truth is that it’s a trend due to all the possibilities they can offer. We can show them downtown Greenville, Falls Park and the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit trail and they never have to leave their homes.
But why would someone want to take a virtual tour of Greenville when they can scale fjords or paddle down the Amazon (both the river and the company’s logistics machinery)? That is where the Internet of Things comes into play by being able include the integration of smart device sensors for items such as cars, suitcases, buildings and more. In addition, as 5G networks expand, that will provide the power to make the technology behind travel even stronger.
Another important form of travel tech is the ability to accept contactless payments. Already increasing dramatically even before the pandemic, contactless payment will allow people to process payments much more quickly, including in situations where customers do not have access to cash, or their credit or debit card. It can also enhance the customer experience, because it is a timesaver.
In all of this, the question becomes what, where and how Greenville decides to take the next steps toward a new economic reality. Some will want to say it won’t work, but remember there were many people who questioned moving away from a solely textile and agrarian economy for the region. When Greenville leaders expanded its economic footprint, it jumped ahead of its regional competitors.
It may be time to make that jump again.