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Sensing a bright future for Tasmanian tourism

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Sense-T project uses smartphones to study visitor behaviour

Visitors to Tasmania are being asked to carry tracking devices to help researchers learn more about where they go and what they do when visiting the island.

Cradle MountainThe Sense-T Sensing Tourist Travel Project, based at the University  of Tasmania (UTAS), uses real-time data to follow the movements of holidaymakers and answer key questions about their travel behaviour. Using a bespoke app pre-loaded onto a smartphone, researchers can find out exactly how long different cohorts spend walking the coast, looking at art or shopping –  gold-plated data for the state’s booming tourism industry.

The project’s primary focus is on two types of visitors: Australian interstate travellers and tourists from China. Volunteer participants are recruited at the island’s three main entry points – Launceston and Hobart airports and the Spirit of Tasmania – and tracked for up to  10 days.

With tourism accounting for over 8% of the state’s economy, an intelligent and robust understanding of visitor behaviour is crucial to the continued growth of the sector in Tasmania.

The project is being jointly led by two researchers from UTAS, Dr Anne Hardy and Professor Richard Eccleston.

“The project will provide a proof of concept that app-based tracking can replace more traditional surveys of visitor experiences,” said Dr Hardy. “It was designed in conjunction with the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, Federal Hotels and Tourism Tasmania, and a wide range of  industry stakeholders have been consulted as part of the
project’s design.”

The Sense-T partnership is a collaboration between UTAS, CSIRO and the Tasmanian Government, with funding also contributed by the Federal Government. In addition to the tourism project, it runs sensor-based research on health, agriculture, finance and other key drivers of the Tasmanian economy, with  the aim of “creating a digital view of Tasmania”.

So far 337 tourists have taken part in the Sensing Tourist Travel Project. Data collection ends in May 2016 and results are expected by September.

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