By Helen Kendrick

‘Predictive’ Tourism Research

New ‘Predictive’ Research makes Scottish Tourism Sector Smarter

Tourism in Scotland is vitally important to the economy; it contributes £6 billion to Scottish GDP every year and accounts for around 8% of employment. But can ‘smart technology’ and data help develop tourism and, crucially, ensure visitors have a great experience here? How can the tourism industry harness current opportunities and achieve further growth?

An innovative new project in Glasgow has recently concluded a pilot phase, looking at how cities can develop a more accurate view of tourist demand and booking patterns, using flight search data. Glasgow City Marketing Bureau have led a project using data from Skyscanner (the online flight-search site) to identify the demographic of tourists coming to cities in the future, so they can inform tourism businesses of this to allow better tailoring of marketing and product offering. The pilot project was funded through The Data Lab, one of Scotland’s Innovation Centres backed by £124 million of investment from the Scottish Funding Council.

In partnership with other data-sets including hotel occupancy, events calendars, city centre footfall and data from transport partners, researchers looking at this data can ascertain certain information about who wants to visit Glasgow, where are they coming from, when they are coming and predicting the possible impacts for the city. The predictive analytics will be plugged into a city tourism ‘dashboard’, developed by a University of Strathclyde team, and used to inform Scotland’s tourism industry to help target and optimise marketing. The dashboard will provide a near real-time resource that can be used to aid decision-making in tourism, city centre, events and transport strategies, optimising service delivery and generating economic development. A key innovative part of this project is that the data being looked at is predictive; until now, the tourism bureau was working with historic data to predict future patterns, which tended to be unreliable.

This project has been hugely exciting, demonstrating the immense potential for harnessing the data we increasingly have access to in smart ways, to make a real impact on the continued growth and success of tourism in Scotland.

Helen Kendrick, Scottish Funding Council 

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