UK Smart City projects to lure new visitors

Digitalisation is providing new opportunities to entice tourists to visit regions outside of London, the WTM Global Trends Report 2015 has revealed. 


Launched on day one of WTM 2015, the report found that just 9% of the 17 million visitors to London in 2014 ventured ‘up north’, according to ONS statistics, yet that figure is set to increase as cities up and down the country experiment with smart technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Euromonitor International, head of Travel, Caroline Bremner said: “UK cities are redefining their tourist offerings, with many turning to digitalisation and hi-tech solutions to attract visitors. This can range from simple smartphone applications and online games to sophisticated, smart cities that use big data to transform the urban experience for both residents and tourists alike.”

Bristol, for example, has installed more than 200 beacons around the city, which use Bluetooth connectivity to send and receive data from nearby smartphones, providing visitors with information relevant to where they are.

Bristol is part of the Government-backed UK Smart City initiative, where IoT projects are creating efficient urban services for residents and visitors, reveals the report – which is celebrating its 10th anniversary at WTM London 2015. Embedded digital technology around cities can improve transport, accessibility and facilities and some technological advances are expected to become tourist attractions in their own right.

One such project is the trial of driverless cars in Milton Keynes. The self-driving pods are located in pedestrianised areas and visitors can hail a vehicle by smartphone app.

Bremner added: “Smart City projects can help cities differentiate themselves from competitors by offering cutting-edge technology applications to help visitors make the most of their stay.

“For tourists the IoT could bring real-time information on traffic and public transport, platforms to gather and distribute information about cities as well as efficient allocation of resources to boost sustainability.”

Although smaller tourist boards and attractions may find the cost of some projects prohibitive, they will seek out joint ventures to share the cost rather than miss out on digital opportunities.

In addition, some initiatives are open to all, such as #RealTimeTravelGuide, backed by VisitEngland, which delivers real-time visitor information via Twitter. Participants including tourist information centres are encouraged to engage with and support local businesses to share their announcements, offers, updates and reasons to visit specific locations.

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