Tourism business owners and managers are at a critical tipping point. The business environment in which they operate has not only become intrinsically more competitive and complex but keeping up with innovation and disruption, while still managing day-to-day operations effectively and efficiently, has become a real challenge. With the advent of the 21st century, people and organizations have realized that we all live in an increasingly VUCA world, an acronym that all tourism professionals should be familiar with and that describes the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world in which we live. Scholars and professionals now accept that firms are dynamic in nature, that change can happen at any time and come from anywhere, and that we have lost the ability to predict what is going to happen next in business and in our lives. Furthermore, the speed at which change occurs is so high that it is extremely difficult to make the right decision about the direction that our organizations should take. In this context, the unexpected is king and the rules that govern how firms operate are unequivocally different.

There are many reasons that can help us understand how we have arrived at this stage, including globalization, digitalization, geopolitical balances, as well as countless social and economic interconnections that operate at the macro and micro levels. Notwithstanding the foregoing, there is still a key factor that is driving tourism firms towards this new era of rapid and accelerating change: technology. Advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) are raising consumer expectations and disrupting tourism ecosystems at a breakneck pace, to the point where a new generation of non-traditional data- and technology-focused competitors are driving a radical transformation of tourism. Technology is now embedded in the things we normally see and touch, but also in the things we don’t perceive (e.g., factory production lines, supply and delivery chains, etc.) having become ubiquitous. In fact, many analysts believe that we are already immersed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a new era characterized by cyber-physical systems that are creating radical breakthroughs in various fields of society at an extraordinary fast speed (Schwab, 2017).

Today, everyone carries a smartphone in their pocket, is in constant communication with their friends, family, and co-workers in real time, and may even live in a house or drive a car that is “intelligent” (Kaivo-Oja et al., 2015). Consumer use of social media has reached unimaginable levels with the support of personal mobile and connected technologies, shaping the way people communicate with each other and with firms. The power of networks and crowds has increased substantially relative to major market leaders, causing changes in people’s social behavior, which, in turn, contain the seeds of a new system of values and beliefs. All these changes are even more noticeable in generations of people who were born between the 1980s and mid-1990s, the so-called Generation Y, whose communication and work habits have forever changed the way they interact with firms and how they make decisions (Burchardt & Maisch, 2019).

The impact of all these developments for tourism small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is materializing in a hyper-competitive business environment in which competitive advantages are only temporary (D’Aveni et al., 2010). Organizations need to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the competition and make a profit that vanishes all too quickly (Mariani et al., 2016). Even more worrying is that owners and managers can only expect these changes to continue to intensify further in the future as internet penetration consolidates and the entire population ends up connected via smart devices and highspeed broadband. Driven by these transformative conditions, digital and smart technologies are pushing tourism SMEs in new and somewhat unpredictable directions, providing unprecedented opportunities to develop new markets, develop new tourism products and services, and improve their competitive edge. No doubt these powerful trends towards accelerating change, technology adoption, and growing interconnectedness are fundamentally redefining the preferences and needs of the so-called “new tourist” (Pasca et al., 2021). The “new tourist” favors the use of mobile technologies and digital platforms, is much more informed, knowledgeable, and connected than ever, extraordinarily demanding, and expects services to be provided when and how she wants them, not how tourism firms want them to be (Zine et al., 2014).

However, it is not all good news. Along with the new opportunities and promised big benefits, there are new risks and threats on the horizon for tourism firms. Smart technologies can create an uneven playing field in the business ecosystem, exacerbated by a widening gap between globally connected, data- and technology-driven tourism firms, and traditional micro and small firms whose business models are grounded in the low use and low investment in technology. This disparity is further accentuated as the world’s most innovative and highestvalue digital companies (e.g., Airbnb, Booking, HomeAway, Uber, etc.) coexist with the larger number of traditional tourism SMEs still struggling to understand the opportunities and reap the benefits of digitalization (OECD, 2019).

Furthermore, reality is much more complex than anybody imagines, and business owners and managers should not consider technology as the only transformative factor that is pushing change hard. Although much of the attention of tourism leaders to date has focused on figuring out how to implement digital technologies, deciding which technology is best, or developing the skills needed to excel in the digital world, time has shown that technology is less effective in improving productivity and driving innovation in an increasingly global and competitive market. Owners and managers should be aware that people are just as important as technology. The leaders who mobilize their organizations to embrace change and provide innovative and effective responses to challenges, and the frontline employees who do their best to satisfy their demanding customers, are essential parts of the smart transformation puzzle.

This is the new normal. A time of profound and transformative change that no tourism firm can escape, no matter its size, location, or sector. All tourism firms are affected equally and strongly. So, you may be wondering right now, how can my business fully grasp the true dimension of the Smart Revolution and what it needs to do to address it effectively, given the myriad challenges it faces? This is exactly what this book is about. In it, owners and managers will find a support guide to understand the phenomenon and the true dimension of the Smart Revolution that tourism firms must tackle and will learn how to navigate these turbulent times by transforming the organization in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Let me welcome you to this wonderful journey and make yourself comfortable. I hope that by reading this book you will discover a better future for yourself and for everyone in your organization.