08 Jul 2021

State-of-the-Art Technology Helps Tourism Leaders Capture Visitor Footfall and Trends

Tourism NI has recently deployed sensors to monitor footfall traffic across Northern Ireland’s most visited outdoor locations in Co. Down. The initiative has been developed in partnership with Mourne Heritage Trust, Newry, Mourne and Down Council and local technology firm Kinsetsu.

Pictured at the Mourne Mountains (L to R) are Martin Carey, CEO of Mourne Heritage Trust, Cllr Cathy Mason, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down DC, Mairead Donaghy, Chief Operations Officer at Kinsetsu and Claire Cromie, Tourism NI’s Digital Programme Manager.

The sensors are situated across the Mourne Mountains and Slieve Gullion in key sites including Castlewellan Forest Park, Kilbroney Park and other key access routes across the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The data captured from the sensors feed into an analytics dashboard, providing a real-time and real-world view of visitor numbers at each location.

In addition, remote access weather stations provide live data on weather conditions at sites including Slieve Gullion, Silent Valley and the high Mournes.

Commenting on the initiative, Claire Cromie, Tourism NI’s Digital Programme Manager said:

“This has been an exciting project to deliver with our local partners in the Newry Mourne and Down area along with Kinsetsu who are best known for developing cutting-edge technology solutions. We started this project in Derry~Londonderry as a pilot where we deployed sensors around the Derry Walls. As a result of the pilot and the demand for outdoor activities, it was evident that the data captured was beneficial for local authorities and all partners in the tourism ecosystem.”

She added: “We are also engaging with our stakeholders to explore how Tourism NI’s data analysis can be used to inform decision making and visitor management as sustainability becomes of increasing importance across the destination. As we continue to recover, we also need to be mindful about the number of people gathering to popular outdoor locations.”

Martin Carey, CEO of Mourne Heritage Trust said:

“This technology will be invaluable in helping us and our partners target efforts both to minimise any adverse impacts of growing numbers of visitors and to ensure people have an enjoyable experience. The data will also inform habitat management as we seek to make the landscape more resilient to climate change and plan recovery from events like the recent landscape fire on Slieve Donard. The new approach comes with the added bonus of removing the need to devote limited staff resource to the time-consuming task of visiting sites to manually download visitor counts.  All in all we have much to thank the funding agency and partners for in relation to what I have no doubt will be a significant additional tool in Caring for Mourne.”

Councillor Cathy Mason, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down DC added:

“Our Parks and Outdoor Space are well used resources which have proved invaluable during lockdown. We have seen numbers at many of our sites continue to grow, although it is great to see that more people want to get out to connect with nature and enjoy the outdoors, the rising popularity is presenting challenges to both rural communities and our landscape. This project will be an important tool in our overall visitor management, helping track visitor numbers and trends. The Council hope this project will help inform Council and our partners as we work together in helping deliver sustainable tourism.”

Mairead Donaghy, Chief Operations Officer at Kinsetsu commented:

“At Kinsetsu, we are pleased to work alongside Tourism NI in partnership with Mourne Heritage Trust, Newry, Mourne and Down Council to deploy people counting sensor devices to various site locations. It was an exciting project for the team to deliver, as devices were installed at some of the area’s most popular, scenic walks and paths as well as some of the more remote, picturesque locations high on the Mournes. These devices have allowed us to provide TNI with our software platform Ktrack, enabling them to view and make decisions with current and historical visitor numbers. We look forward to working with the great team in Tourism NI in the future.”

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