Mobile apps could boost tourism in Northern Ireland

Ulster University academics have received funding from the European Union’s Northern Periphery Programme to develop mobile applications, or apps, that could help to boost tourism in Northern Ireland.

Dr Peter Bolan, director for international travel and tourism management at the university’s Coleraine campus, said the apps could be used to create site-specific interpretive visitor information for key tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, effectively turning the tourist’s mobile phone into his or her very own personalised tour guide.

Some tourism providers are already using apps to provide tourists with information, but Bolan said the apps developed at the university will provide a more extensive and immersive experience for visitors to key tourism attractions.

’Current apps are really just replicating information already readily available in a variety of other formats, such as online or in guidebooks or brochures,’ he said. ’The proposed apps will use audio and video clips in new and creative ways to provide on-site location-specific information.

’We would hope that by making the information more accessible to visitors, they will be encouraged to explore more and, ultimately, spend more time and money in Northern Ireland.’

Initially, the researchers will target sites of cultural and historical significance along the north coast, such as the Mussenden Temple at Downhill and Dunluce Castle, using computer-generated imagery to create ’augmented reality’ by combining virtual scenes with real scenes.

’This way, we can overlay existing historic ruins such as Dunluce with virtual views of what the building would have looked like down through the centuries,’ said Bolan.

The project also plans to use GPS technology to pinpoint the visitor’s exact location and then highlight other attractions of related interest nearby. Visitors will be able to key in their specific needs and preferences to generate their own personalised tours.

Bolan will work in collaboration with colleagues in the School of Media, Film and Journalism to develop the apps.