Visitor data is helping manage and protect areas of natural beauty and boosting local retail

By Clive Hall, CEO of Place Informatics

Measuring footfall across large green spaces used to be very expensive with hardware such as cameras or sensors being implemented at numerous sites. The modern, most cost-effective way to measure this footfall is by using GPS mobile phone data which is fully GDPR compliant.

At Place Informatics we are a leading provider of footfall and location visitor behaviour data monitoring, and our ‘green spaces’ solution is helping councils across the UK manage areas of natural beauty. Our solutions give management and marketing teams detailed visitor insights to help them to understand how these important and often vast green spaces are being utilised, which postcodes visitors are coming from and also how they are interacting with local retail, hospitality and communities during their visits.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are often vital assets to local economies, and it is therefore important for management teams and councils to understand where the local, regional and national visitors come from, where they go and what they do – across the large areas of green spaces and also along lengthy trails and pathways that are frequented by visitors.

This helps councils target the right catchment areas to attract people from surrounding villages and towns and cities further afield. Knowing where your visitors come from – such as whether they are mainly local in the Winter or mainly tourists in the summer, can help planning for resources, facilities and events as well as gaining insights into the socio-economic profiles of visitors. Without this data, management teams could be missing out on many opportunities – or the marketing, events and tourist teams could well be spending money in geographic areas where they have little traction and return on investment.

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the West Midlands of England, the Malvern Hills area covers 12 km squared, and is world renowned for invigorating spring water, fresh air and spectacular views over four counties – providing an idyllic place for locals to unwind and for tourists from all over the UK to visit.

The District Council for Malvern Hills recognised the value in monitoring visitor and footfall data – to assist with numerous council functions such as investment, commercial contracts, maintenance, marketing, resourcing and environmental challenges. For example, this data has already shown that more people travel from Leicester to Malvern (2 hours away from the area) than from numerous areas in Birmingham, which is around an hour away.

Within the town of Malvern, Priory Park is managed by the council and is close to Great Malvern Town Centre. The park hosts a variety of events including live music, shows and film screenings, open air recreational activities also attract visiting crowds. Using the Place Informatics dashboard, Malvern District Council are able to create an event report for the park showing how many visitors attended each event and compare and contrast to last month and last year.

Malvern Hills District council has a small number of parks, green spaces and car parks that they are responsible for, however they also work in co-operation with 54 town and parish councils and work together with a charity, the Malvern Hills Trust that manages the vast number of green spaces, parks and other sites across the county.

Having access to  visitor insights such as home postcode origins, dwell times and density heatmaps means councils can share data and metrics available with these key stakeholders, presenting them data available via an automatic pdf report in the Place Informatics dashboard – to illustrate the reasons behind key decisions, whilst helping to keep businesses and community groups informed.

Councils can also use the socio-economic data to make a strong case for funding, particularly with benefactors such as the ‘Levelling Up’ fund that are seeking locations with lower socio-economic grades for improvement projects. For example, the National Trust are aiming to encourage visitors from deprived areas to their properties and Place Informatics data can assist with this project.

If more affluent visitors are targeted, the extra cash boost will go some way to tackling the economic differences, providing an invaluable boost to the local economy.

In relation to conservation areas, the density heatmaps can be used to keep a check that footfall is not over the limit, so that interventions can be put in place if need be.

In forests or wooded areas the heatmaps have been used to identify risk where there are high levels of footfall traffic, helping tree surgeon contractors make decisions on which areas to focus on first.

For more information on location visitor data and insights visit www.placeinformatics.com