CAUTHE 2017: Groundbreaking tourist tracking app set to go global

A groundbreaking tourist-tracking app developed by the University of Tasmania (UTAS) is set to be licensed in what could be the first of many commercial deals.

UTAS is in negotiations with a Swedish tourism body keen to use the technology which provides detailed data on traveller activity through GPS tracking.

The talks come after a pilot study which, described as a world first in tourism research, developed and used the app to follow tourists in Tasmania for 14 days.

Anne Hardy, Senior Lecturer in the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics (TSBE) at the University of Tasmania said it is the largest study of its type in the world – and the longest – with previous studies only lasting for up to two days.

Some 472 people including international, Australian and Chinese visitors were enlisted at Hobart and Launceston airports and the Spirit of Tasmania in Devonport and given a smartphone loaded with the tracking app.

It was the addition of surveys to understand the people travelling and why they were travelling that gave the project the edge according to Hardy.

It allowed researchers to see how travel patterns differed based on age, home country, length of stay and reason for travel.

“Data from a phone company can tell you where Anne who is 47 went, but our study also gathered information on why people are travelling.”

Insights from the data revealed that tourists who visited Tasmania for the wilderness experience covered hundreds of kilometres and tourists who came for the food and wine hardly travelled.

It provided an understanding of how people use infrastructure, for example, how long they spend at a look out in a national park or where they go to the loo.

It also challenged commonly held beliefs around risky behaviour and visitor driving.

Hardy said there has been a lot of interest in the technology and there is the potential for further licensing agreements.

The research has also just received A$410,000 (NZ$435,334) of fresh funding for a new study tracking 1,000 people over a year to provide insight into seasonal travel variations.

The original project was funded by Sense-T, which is a partnership between the University of Tasmania, the State and Federal Government and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

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