Tourism driving “Smart Villages”

How Digital Tourism growth initiatives can drive localized Smart City strategies for rural communities.

Tourism driving Smart Villages”

Scotland’s majestic landscape and our many cultural and historical sites have become increasingly popular with visitors from all over the world. This is fantastic news with a positive contribution to the local rural economy. However, it can put increasing pressure on rural communities.

Tourism is vital to many small village communities who wish to capture some of this welcome potential economic boost and although many hold the magical ingredients of History, Heritage, Landscape and Culture, their kerb appeal may not be in tandem, resulting in thousands of potential Tourists deciding to drive on by, not taking a hour or two or a day or two to make that all important contribution.

As a consequence, many Rural Communities need to adopt a Bottom-up approach in tackling the identified problem and local re-generation happens with attractions, enhancements and events. Gardens start to show more flowers than weeds, faded buildings are brightened up, and the once tired, perhaps even run-down community, springs into life, Tourists start to notice and actually stop.

At this point further important steps are needed to address the comment – “nice place, but there’s nothing to do or see here” This warning needs to be heeded as part of the Rural development plan. So you create more attractions and promote the assets the Community actually has but perhaps you never really noticed. Social Media and Marketing starts to become more and more important.

As well as directly addressing the needs of the “nice visitors”, the village starts to also benefit from more attractive facilities right on the doorstep, Special events happen, the Neighbourhood grows closer and there is restored pride in the community. Formerly closed and boarded up Hotels re-open and properties for sale long term, sell quicker and new people move in – with new fresh ideas.

This is a Bottom-Up strategy in action and starting to actually work. At this point, the community is ready for the next exciting stage, the evolution to a “Smart Village” environment, with Tourism very much a key driving factor but realising the vast benefits that can serve the Community. In essence, Tourism starts to drive a “Smart Village” development.

So what is a “Smart Village”?

The definition of a “Smart Village” varies all over the world. For some countries, it is driven by tapping into a significant resource such as a Dam, a Wind Generator or other major resource directly funding “Smart” Initiatives. It is a relatively new concept within the realm of EU policy making. The emerging concept of Smart Villages refers to rural areas and communities, which build on their existing strengths and assets as well as developing new opportunities.

The Cloud

The “Smart Village” builds data from all sources important to the Community onto a central Data Platform – often described as a “cloud” the data can include information on: Tourism attractions, History, Heritage, Events, Activities, Food and accommodation outlets, Transport links, Weather warnings on Flood Risk, Storms or Snowfall to excessive levels. Things to do, places to visit, Local Authority Information, right down to rubbish bucket uplifts. The information held within the Smart Village is limitless. A further development stage can start to integrate Smart Technology and IoT – Internet of Things. This, even at a Rural level, starts to make a positive contribution to Scotland’s Digital Future with helps drive Tourism.

Digital Scotland – Catalyst for Economic Growth

  • Contribute to Scotland’s Digital Future at a Rural Level
  • Help to Showcase the region to the world.
  • Help Boost visitor numbers to Scotland
  • Utilize latest social media marketing technologies.

About the Author

Kenny Higgins is a new Consultant with Digital Scotland and runs Kenny Higgins Consultancy based in the village of Strathyre in Stirlingshire and within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Kenny is focused on “Smart Village” initiatives and the development of Tourism and Rural Communities.

Kenny holds 31 years experience with BT, appointed as BTs first Mobile Executive appointment and eventually heading up Wireless Data Telemetry and Applications Teams.

In 2004 Kenny formed Island Communications as MD where he developed his award winning Flood Monitoring and Early Warning Systems, invented a Marine Vessel Tracking system, CraftAlert. He was invited to join a European Consortium with teams in Estonia, Denmark, Italy and Spain, taking a personal Tracking solution for people with Dementia from Concept to working Prototype. Then followed a mailbox counting system helping Royal Mail reduce its Carbon Footprint through Smarter Logistics operations. Kenny also developed an NHS Managed Appointment Reminder Service (MARS), which served many NHS locations throughout the UK to help reduce the number of cancelled hospital / doctor appointments.

Kenny was invited to join Sottish Parliament Business Exchange offering advice to MSPs and their constituents effected by Flood Risk and other matters.

In 2009 Kenny was head hunted to lead Hydro-Logic’s Sales Team where his Water Level Monitoring and Flood Early Warning solution was enhanced along with a new software platform, which benefits many local authorities throughout the UK and Beyond.

For the past 7 Years, Kenny worked on Tourism Development projects helping to enhance the villages of Strathyre, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead and St Fillans, with some innovative ideas such as the double award winning #BLiSS Trail featuring Artist works on the Sustrans National Cycle and Hiking Network Route 7, which he managed to re-route through Strathyre. He worked on other Tourism related Data Building platforms developed as Vice Chair of Loch Earn Tourism Initiative (LETi) which used a significant Web portal

In October 2018 Kenny was invited to join Neil McEvoy as part of his team of Consultants at Digital Scotland to help contribute to Scotland’s Digital Future.

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