Julie Grieve: Let's build more travel tech in Scotland

Scotland has proven itself to be a technology powerhouse. As a nation we have created two tech unicorns in Skyscanner and FanDuel, our expertise is on show at the Turing Festival, and CodeBase, the tech incubator, has provided a successful model for the nurture of talent and development of new ideas.

Julie Grieve is calling for the tourism industry to embrace technology. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Over recent years, the focus has been on fintech, drawing together Scotland’s world-leading knowledge and experience for financial services with the bright young entrepreneurs in the technology sector.

More recently, the momentum has been behind proptech, with businessmen such as Shaf Rasul and the University of Strathclyde putting up big-money prizes for innovations that will drive change and future success in the property industry.

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But my question is, where is the next Skyscanner? With such a worthy role model, where is the encouragement for tech innovation in Scotland’s other great industry, tourism? Although the travel industry has been massively enhanced (and disrupted) by the arrival of the online travel agent and booking services, the wider industry has been slow to embrace new technology.

Against a backdrop of increasing evidence from VisitScotland visitor surveys that the travel and holiday experience is enhanced by technology, the Scottish Tourism Alliance has been hugely proactive in promoting and teaching more digital skills.

The likes of Etag (the Edinburgh Tourism Alliance Group) has also campaigned for a comprehensive digital strategy.

Now, it is time for our young software engineers and creative digital minds to be welcomed into the tourism industry and for there to be a greater focus on “traveltech”.

As with the financial services sector and the property industry, travel and tourism in Scotland needs to look at connectivity, at the efficiencies that digital technology can bring, at the delivery of services and meeting the needs of a new generation of traveller with very different expectations of travel and everything that encompasses.

The use of virtual and augmented reality, apps, online visual information, GPS tracking and guest messaging for example can all help deliver an authentic experience in a manner that works for today’s “tech savvy” traveller.

With a bit of imagination, we could be showcasing Scotland’s amazing places and its sense of innovation and enterprise to a whole new global audience.

Scotland is known for is creative arts, its majestic landscapes and its heritage. Promoting this to the world in an era of social media, smartphones and instant access to information and data requires the tourism industry to collaborate with the technology leaders and harness new tech ideas.

Julie Grieve is the founder and chief executive of DIY app-builder for the hospitality sector Criton