On November 26 and 27, 2019 the American University of Beirut and its partners in the MED GAIMS (MED GAmifIcation for Memorable tourist experienceS) project from four countries, Lebanon, Jordan, Spain, and Italy met in Villanova, Spain to kick-off the project. The MED GAIMS is an EU funded (€2.3 million) project under the ENI CBC MED program for cross-border cooperation in the Mediterranean area. The project aims to revamp tourism in the region by shifting the paradigm of tourism to an active interaction rather than a passive one. This will be achieved via employing experience design through the context of gamification. Game mechanics will be utilized to highlight a novel story telling approach in tourism. This will expand to an experience that will not only serve to enhance the tourism experience, but also to increase the influx of tourists to less known sites. This project is gearing up to be a grass roots movement that engages the local community to become developers rather than users of the project outcome.
As the leading partner of the project, AUB kicked off the meeting with support from the Department of General Antiquities in Lebanon. Professors Daniel Asmar, Imad Elhajj, and Elie Shammas from the Vision and Robotics Lab (VRL) in the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture (MSFEA), along with the rest of the partners—i2cat and Neapolis from Spain, META from Italy, Department of Antiquities and Jordan University of Science and Technology from Jordan—all engaged in their respective work-packages. During the second half of the day, the partners pitched the first draft of the unpolished ideas for games in their respective countries under the watchful eyes of globally renowned gamification experts.
On Wednesday, November 27, the project held its first technical seminar on experiential tourism in Neapolis. Experts in gamification of tourism gave workshops and shared their experiences on creating memorable experiences. Speakers included Paul Bulencea, the co-founder and CEO of The College of Extraordinary Experiences; Fabio Viola, a renowned personality in the world of gamification who attended the meeting at the request of Italian company PROMO Fondazione; and Ghaleb Hijazi, the vice-president of the Business Development Center in Jordan. The experts closed the loop with the partners regarding the proposed games and gave valuable tips and guidelines to refine the partners' internal games.
What's next? Project partners from associated countries will continue to work together on the MED GAIMS project by doing the necessary research and testing to make touristic destinations more attractive and engaging. Developing these games in Lebanon will include conducting creative laboratories, competitions, and hackathons for the development of these games. In the long run, creating games and adding gamification to tourism will not only attract more visitors and improve their experience, but will create job opportunities for developers and entrepreneurs across the tourism sector. MED GAIMS team is looking forward to engage and fund the local game developers as we retool tourism in Lebanon and the region.