Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Visiting Venice

When WPI undergraduates first arrive in Venice, they are "visitors" like the 15+ million other foreigners who visit the city every year. Within a week our students already consider themselves "locals" and speak disparagingly of tourists.
Over the years, we have made some useful contributions to the study of the impact of tourism on the city, being the first to count day-tripping tourists and exploring their choice of transportation upon arrival.
What we foolishly didn't do was to create a student-originated guidebook that we could have made available to all young visitors to the city (and maybe we could have raised some operating funds through it). But it's never too late! New tools like wikis, blogs, collaborative ratings and RSS feeds give us much more power to implement this idea now, which is what this year's team will do (among other things). We have already reserved a "cool" URL for this purpose (wikedvenice.com).
Moreover, the man who sponsored all our studies on tourism, Dr. Donato Concato, formerly the director of the Azienda di Promozione Turistica in Venice, would like to put together a grant proposal for a web 2.0 site for tourists which may not only suggest itineraries based on explicit or implicit preferences, time available and geographic extent, but that could also "profile" tourists and suggest sites, hotels, restaurants, etc. based on the preferences and reviews provided by people with similar profiles. There's a lot of potential here for something really useful. This year's WPI student team should be able to help in the development of the grant proposal and may produce an ant-like travelling salesman mock up with the assistance of Redfish in Santa Fe.
Finally, with an old friend and colleague from Sant'Elena, now a professor of business economics at the University of Venice in Ca'Foscari, Prof. Michele Tamma, we have discussed the possibility of exploring the economics of tourism as part of this project as well.
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