Tourism Minister Arlene Foster today launched a series of new tourism apps to help encourage visitors in Northern Ireland to make the most of their holidays here.
The four new apps will provide a wide range of information to tourists, including information on attractions, accommodation and things to do throughout Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, Arlene Foster said: “In tourism, as with any industry, it is vitally important to provide innovative ways of promoting our products and engaging with consumers. These new apps will inform our visitors while they are here and will help them make the most of the many events, attractions and activities we have on offer throughout Northern Ireland.”
Supported by the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the new smart phone apps have been developed through a unique partnership between the public and private sector in Northern Ireland.
A procurement competition was run through the Technology Strategy Board’s Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), to enable small technology businesses to provide innovative solutions to specific public sector challenges. Development of the new apps through SBRI is the first project of its kind to be delivered in Northern Ireland.
Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board said: “SBRI has been successfully used at a UK national level to stimulate growth, particularly in small technology companies whilst bringing innovative solutions to public sector challenges. It is great to see Northern Ireland now benefitting from this as the first of the devolved administrations to run an SBRI competition.”
Arlene Foster added: “This highly innovative project set a challenge to our brightest software developers and tourism providers to help promote the best of Northern Ireland. Initiatives such as this enhance the visitor experience here and can help entice greater numbers of domestic and international tourists to come and experience what’s on offer.”
Helping to launch the series of new apps was Julie McNeice, of My Tour Talk. Julie developed a new audio tour app which is now available for iPhone and android mobile phones. Julie said: “Winning this exciting competition has given My Tour Talk the opportunity to bring to market the perfect travel companion in a really useful and easy to use iPhone and Android app. As a result of government adopting this innovative form of procurement, My Tour Talk can now provide visitors and locals with the ultimate travel experience, should they be planning a day out, a holiday or the up and coming staycation.”
The Minister concluded: “Considering the high standard of competition, it is particularly encouraging that two of the winners are small local companies. I am sure that this is the first of a number of projects where Northern Ireland government in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board will use procurement to stimulate the private sector and especially our small businesses.”
The four new apps are available to download now and include:
- Pocket Northern Ireland consists of a detailed tourist map, audio commentary and information on various attractions here;
- Take a Hike is a walking app which will help visitors search for and share information on the best walking trails in Northern Ireland;
- My Tour Talk includes driving and walking tours and information on attractions and accommodation; and
- View Ranger offers outdoor enthusiasts mapping, guides and trip sharing ideas.
- 72 bids were received, the 6th highest for any SBRI, despite being by a long way the smallest run by the Technology Strategy Board.
- Over 20 applications were from NI companies - all from SMEs/Micro-businesses.
- Four winners (two from NI) awarded contracts totalling £81,000 and all four apps are now on the market. None of the companies were more than five years old and one of the Northern Ireland winners has been trading less than one year.
- Nine public sector data sets were made available under licence as part of the competition.
- This project was a direct result of Digital Circle (espcially the Code4Pizza group) working with DETI and NITB.