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Do not get lost

Getting lost in an unknown city is still part of the romanticism of travelling for some people. Others do not have time to waste and prefer having a plan to visit the most interesting monuments of the place.

For this type of tourists, researchers of the University of Granada, in collaboration with other Spanish universities, are developing a computer system to make tourism easier with a visit plans network designed according to their preferences and economic resources.

There is a great amount of tourism information of the cities already available on the Internet: street plans, hotels, restaurants, museums, etc. But it is dispersed and the visitor must look for it among a great amount of data. The system that the members of the Sepia group of the High Technical Schools of Computing Engineering of the UGR [] are developing together with researchers of the University Carlos III, UNED, Technical College of Valencia and the Institute of Artificial Intelligence of Barcelona (CSIC), can bring together such information and offer tailor made journeys.

“Most of the information of the Internet is static, the visits are predefined and they do not take into account tourists´ likes”, says Luis Castillo, one of the researchers of the University of Granada that participates in the project, financed by the National Plan for R&D&I. SAMAP (Adaptive MultiAgent System of context dependant Planning) is a computer application that brings together all the digitalized information of the city and offers the traveller the possibility of selecting the destination –if he knows it–, or inputting a series of parameters for the system to design a generic visit plan.

Tourists´ likes

The variables taken into account are time and money available, the pace of the visit, the distance that the tourist is prepared to cover walking, favourite transport, the architectural or artistic style he wants to see or the kind of food e prefers, among others. “If somebody likes gothic art, the system will only offer him monuments or museums according to such criterion depending on the money he has at his disposal to travel and spend in the visit. And if these places are too far to go walking, they can recommend him the most economical transport to arrive”, Castillo says.

In hardly two seconds, the traveller can have a plan with a plane in GPS of the shortest journey, with the location of the places to visit, timetables, rates, the fastest and most reasonable mean of transport and even the esteemed wait time to take a taxi or enter a museum. Obviously, for this system to be efficient, this information must be always updated and as complete as possible. The system is still under development and is being applied to the city of Valencia.

According to the user’s choice, the system makes a configuration of his tastes that can be used to suggest him similar options in other occasions. Besides, these plans can be adapted to other users with a similar profile. Other similar systems can do the same but, according to Castillo, they have not the learning ability and the richness of options SAMAP can offer. They offer types of plans already established according to certain characteristics of the new user.

Changing plans

When you do a plan it is essential to have the possibility of changing it. If the traveller finds a huge queue to enter a monument or the restaurant is closed or he just wants to change his plan, SAMAP can offer him alternative options. It is possible if the tourist can access the system both from a PDA or the Internet in a cyber-café or through a street connection system of the local administration. The persons who use these mobile devices are usually tourists with medium or high purchasing power, but everybody can use a cyber-café according to Castillo.

A system that allows to visit a city to the liking of the traveller seems to be interesting for tourism, an economic sector that is one of the main motors of the economy of Andalusia and Granada, but with a saturation that requires innovative implements. In 2004, nearly two million tourists visited the province of Granada, and more than a half were Spanish. However, the overnight stays average, the hobby horse of the sector in the city, was of 2 days; apart from the visit to the Alhambra, the rest of the time is gold to know how to use it.

Although many of these tourists come in package tours, every time more and more travellers plan their own holidays through the Internet. The New Technologies are also important for a new model of tourism with a great potential for the city, conference tourism. In the first quarter of 2004, the number of persons who came to this kind of event doubles con with regard to the previous year. The average expenses per day of the visitor were about 50 euros and the total of the visits provided about 1,100 million euros to the economy of the province. SAMAP admits private sponsorship, which can be profitable for companies when the visitor looks for generics –such as restaurants–.

Antonio Marín Ruiz | alfa
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