VisitBritain and Yahoo host app hackathon as part of tourism push beyond London

VisitBritain and Yahoo are hosting a 24-hour hackathon this weekend, challenging app developers to produce a prototype of a mobile app for tourists visiting the country. The initiative is part of the tourism body’s effort to meet challenges set out by the government earlier this month to promote tourism outside of London.

In a first for VisitBritain, app developers have been tasked with creating a prototype for a mobile app that will help visitors to Britain plan their visit at any stage of the trip, with winning designs to be put into development and ultimately launched as VisitBritain’s new mobile app later this year.

The app is to be based around the Travel Time API platform, which shows the user where they can travel to within a certain timeframe and using a certain mode of transport.

Tess Bedard, senior digital marketing manager at VisitBritain, told Marketing Week: “We want to create something evergreen on mobile, as historically we’ve been campaign focused.”

Bedard says that the global holiday segment largely depends on their mobile phones, with 92% bringing them on holiday with them.

“The majority of holidaymakers to Britain have a lead-in-time of three to six months when they’re planning their trip, so mobile devices also play a massive part in the planning process,” she added.

The tourism body has deliberately left the brief open according to Bedard, with hopes that the 30 participating designers and developers will develop valuable ideas and insight.

“It’s a good way of engaging with the tech community and gaining new relationships,” she says, adding that the response to the hackathon has been “pretty damn awesome”.

In its attempt to use digital more effectively, VisitBritain recently launched its own Tumblr blog also in partnership with Yahoo to promote the country’s historical landmarks and scenery.

Government charges VisitBritain with getting tourists past London

The hackathon comes after the government set out targets earlier this month to challenge tourism bodies including VisitBritain to get more overseas visitors to travel beyond London.

In a review of VisitBritain and VisitEngland, the government indicated that VisitBritain should lead on all international marketing in consultation with national tourist boards. Meanwhile, VisitEngland will cease all international marketing.

The government has also pushed £10m investment into a Northern Tourism fund, including £3m into VisitBritain’s Countryside if GREAT campaign, and a £2m challenge find for towns and cities across the country to boost their tourism.

“All of our activity is focused on getting visitors across the country,” Bedard says.

“We’re looking to get people back for a second trip but also add to their holiday experience by exploring more of Britain. Ultimately that is everything we do, and this mobile app is one of the ways we’re trying to work towards that.”

The event will kick off at 6pm tonight at Yahoo’s London offices and will wrap up at 8.15pm on Saturday (27 March).

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here


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