Offaly County Council installed Free Public Wi-Fi points along tourist routes to monitor data analytics and enhance tourism.
This practice seeks to increase the attractiveness of County Offaly which has huge potential for growth in terms of the tourism industry. Tourism assets include the River Shannon, Birr Castle, Lough Boora Discovery Park and Tullamore Dew, however in 2017, only 52,000 tourists visited the county compared to 5.9 m tourists that visited Dublin. The practice reaches its objective by using digital solutions to increase the attractiveness of the Region. It involves the strategic placing of free Wi-Fi in tourist hotspots such as Banagher Marina, the Grand Canal Greenway and buildings along these routes to increase tourism activity. Offaly County Council have also offered free Wi-Fi to building/business owners who allow the Council to place outdoor Wi-Fi equipment on their buildings e.g bars/restaurants. Then using Wi-Fi connections analytics are used to observe the flow of tourists through the county and to inform the development of services or attractions.
The main stakeholders benefiting from this practice are tourists who can enjoy an internet connection without roaming charges and the local economy which largely benefit from increased levels of tourism. Furthermore, local businesses and communities can use the Wi-Fi to establish and run their businesses in rural areas.
Installation €40,000. Offaly County Council has assumed the Wi-Fi subscription costs from their operational budget. Commercial rates from new businesses set up will contribute to upkeep and expansion of the initiative. Further public Wi-Fi points at additional sites are planned in the County.
Evidence of success
As a result of implementing this digital solution a start-up Gourmet Food Van and Adventure Tourism Business set up in the area, further increasing the attractiveness of the region and the development of new services. Local businesses are delighted with the new partnership with the Local Council as it has increased their footfall, as tourists stop off for coffee or lunch to avail of the free Wi-Fi. It has also improved the experience that people have when they are in the area.
The Council worked with ThinkSmarter to monitor the flow of tourists and how they move along the tourist trail. However due to GDPR/Address Randomisation it is not as easy to track devices, however it is possible to build an overall profile of tourists to inform service development.
Potential for learning or transfer
This GP is easy to transfer within other regions, and beneficial to those in more rural areas. Wi-Fi access can attract customers (e.g Telemat 2015 found that 1 in 10 customers admitted leaving a venue because there was no Wi-Fi) and analytics can help businesses/local councils to better understand their customers/citizens e.g. where they like to spent time or/to identify their interests. This information can then be used by businesses/local council to develop their services, tailor offers and market activities in the future.