Initial results of a world first tourism tracking initiative in Tasmania were reported to the Tasmanian Tourism Industry Conference on 13th May. Data monnitoring only concluded on 5th May, but the initial results are showing where tourists went on arrival in Tasmania, how long they stayed overall and at specific places, and what the primary reason for their visit was.

472 interstate and international tourists around Tasmania have been tracked over late summer and early autumn 2016. The project is a Sense-T project, funded by the Australian Government through the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Plan. The project team involves 7 academics from UTAS and 3 interstate and international collaborators. The project was created in consultation with the state government and tourism industry representatives in Tasmania.

The Visitor Tracking team wanted two key types of data: (1) GPS data to see precise travel information, such as route travelled and time spent at particular locations, and (2) demographic data. We could then overlay these two data types and break down visitor behaviour by cohorts, allowing us to examine patterns by, for example, country of origin, reason for visiting Tassie, and mode of travel throughout the state.

Tourists were recruited at the three major entry points: the Hobart International Airport, Launceston Airport and on the Spirit of Tasmania. Tourists were given smartphones, which continuously tracked their movement as well as containing a bespoke app, designed by Hobart-based company Ionata Digital. The app allowed on-screen delivery of entry and exit surveys, in order to collect demographic data, as well as a pop-up survey if tourists visited Freycinet National Park.

In addition, participants could opt-in to a further component of research examining their use of social media while on holiday in Tassie and how this may have contributed to their decision-making and behaviour.

The project aims to demonstrate that tracking technology can provide unprecedented insights into tourist behaviour and decision-making in Tasmania. The GIS data collected, when examined in tandem with the demographic data, has the potential to provide industry-wide benefits including detailed insights into changing infrastructure needs from signage to roads and loos through to where there is unmet demand for accommodation. The techniques will enable us to develop and evaluate more effective marketing campaigns and regional visitor. The technology can also be used by private operators to analyse their guests travel patterns and behaviour. In short, such valuable and unprecedented data will create value for the industry and for the Tasmanian community, as well as improving the visitor experience. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Next steps include analysis of the data and sharing the results via academic channels and through engagement with government and the tourism industry. The data collected will allow almost endless analysis ranging from broad travel patterns broken down by cohorts (ie, country of origin or port of entry) to fine-grain analysis (ie, length of time spent at lookouts, other activities undertaken by customers of particular operators, roads travelled on at night and even public conveniences used!).

Images in this article are taken from Sense-T project website.