The digital revolution is radically changing the world we live in. Sensors in smart homes are able to interconnect devices such as thermostats, washing machines, television sets, laptops, tablets, and other objects to the Internet of Things platforms. New digital technologies have introduced important innovations in factories, hospitals, hotels, cities and territories. Industry 4.0 is signaling the end of well-established patterns and is asking scholars, managers and citizens willing to survive in this ever-changing and increasingly complex environment to observe it through different lenses and new paradigms. The tourism sector, also, is very much involved in digital transformations, increasingly qualifying them with expressions such as Tourism 4.0 or Smart Tourism. What impact does the digital revolution have on tourism? What do tourism 4.0 and smart tourism have in common? What are the main differences? Adopting a conceptual approach and focusing on the travel and tourism industry, our work aims to provide a point of view and some preliminary answers to the above questions. In paragraph 1 we illustrate the main changes brought about by the digital revolution 4.0 in industry, the Web, and tourism. Then, the concepts of tourism 4.0 and smart tourism are compared in Sect. 2. Section 3 illustrates how the consumer experience of digital tourists changes before, during, and after the trip. Paragraphs 4 and 5 illustrate the challenges of tourism destinations and tourism ecosystems in the smart perspective. In the final section of the paper, we highlight that in the near future it will not be possible for tourism ecosystems and territories to only take into account digital innovations, but they will have to include smart tourism perspectives like sustainability, circular economy, quality of life, and social value; they should also aim to enhance tourism experiences and to increase the competitive advantage of smart tourism destinations. Tourism 4.0 technologies need to be geared toward the improvement of the quality of tourism practices, assuming smartness and sustainability as the right paradigm for improving the quality of life and the social value of both guests and local residents.
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