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SFC-funded ‘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 has led a project using data from Skyscanner (the online flight-search site) to predict the number of tourists coming to Glasgow and Edinburgh, so they can inform hospitality businesses 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 datasets including hotel occupancy, researchers looking at this data can ascertain certain information about the number of visitors who want to visit Glasgow including where are they coming from, when they are coming and predicting the possible impacts for the city. The predictive analytics could be plugged into a city tourism ‘dashboard’, developed by a Glasgow City Council and the Strathclyde team, and could be used by 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, optimizing service delivery and generating economic development. The key innovation and transformative part of this project is the processing of big data, to create predictive insights as; until now, the tSFC-funded 'Predictive' Research makes Scottish Tourism Sector Smarterourism industry was reliant on working with historic data to predict future patterns, which had limitations in access, sample sizes and were not presented in a timely manner.

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.

Dr Stuart Fancey, SFC Director of Research and Innovation - 25 Nov 2016