£80,000 competition launched to write IT programme to attract more high-spending tourists to Northern Ireland - The Irish News
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£80,000 competition launched to write IT programme to attract more high-spending tourists to Northern Ireland

Tourism NI is seeking a computer buff to write a programme to attract more visitors to Northern Ireland
Gary McDonald Business Editor

WANTED: Computer geek(s) capable of developing an innovative technology solution to intelligently engage with overseas travellers and encourage them to come to Northern Ireland and spend more of their money. Your reward: up to £80,000 from the public purse.

That's the vision of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition to develop a real time tourism programme by next spring to significantly boost the north's tourism numbers.

The government-run competition - which has a total budget of £80,000 and which is the fifth to be funded under the Stormont Executive’s SBRI Challenge Fund - is seeking technology solutions to encourage visitors to explore more, do more and spend more during their visit to Northern Ireland.

Ideally they want someone to come up with a prototype solution that compels visitors to explore more of Northern Ireland; integrated data sets providing a foundation to achieve real time analytics; metrics detailing specifics of visitor trips such as visitor journey and movements around Northern Ireland, where they stayed and for how long, and here they visited; and dashboard that can be shared with industry partners.

Tourism already represents 5.2 per cent of the north’s gross domestic product and supports 5.4 per cent of all jobs in the region, and has been identified as a key growth sector.

But despite the best endeavours of Tourism Ireland and Tourism NI, and the north having hosted major events like the Giro D'Italia and Irish Open golf, the stellar numbers spike hasn't happened.

Now, through this competition, Tourism NI want to extract real time (or near real time) data to supplement official statistics that will provide indicators of visitors' movements around Northern Ireland, spend and satisfaction with their experience.

“We want someone to come up with a solution to encourage visitors to explore more, do more and spend more during their visit to Northern Ireland," the body's chief executive John McGrillen said.

"In addition to the information which we hold, we are aware that there are many other sources of both private and commercial information including social media and tourism booking providers that potentially can form part of an innovative solution.”

Last year there were 4.5m overnight trips in Northern Ireland and tourism contributed £760m to the economy. External visitors made up 2.3m of that total and £540m of the spend.

Completed applications for the competition (details at www.tourismni.com/AboutUs/SBRI.aspx) must be in by August 26, and an information workshop for potential applicants will be held in Belfast on Wednesday July 6.

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