Omagh Enterprise clients amongst the Sperrins leisure businesses connect to tourist campaign

Pictured launching the NI Check IN app at Todds Leap in Ballygawley are, (left), Catherine Morris from the South West College, Olive Hill, Invest NI, and Gemma Begley of Todd’s Leap.

Four leisure businesses in the Sperrins have been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to embrace mobile communications technology that could help in attracting tourists expected to visit Northern Ireland as part of the NI2012 Our Time Our Place campaign.

The companies – Todd’s Leap, Ballygawley, An Creagan, near Omagh, Barrontop Fun Farm, Donemana, and The Jungle, Moneymore – pooled individual Invest NI Innovation Vouchers to develop NI Check IN, a smartphone app, with the help of the technology team at the South West College in Omagh.

The new app, which can be used on Apple’s iPhones, makes it easier to access the wide range of leisure and activity facilities of the four Tyrone businesses. The NI Check IN app links to mini sites that detail the opportunities and special deals for tourists and local visitors. At the moment it links to the four partners, but in the near future it will link to all subscribing tourism companies.

The app, launched by Gemma Begley of Todd’s Leap and Catherine Morris from the South West College, was welcomed by Olive Hill, Invest NI’s Director of Technology and Process Development.

Mrs Hill said: “This is a unique and imaginative development for us; it is a good example of how a number of small companies can work collaboratively to solve a common business issue leading to a technology project that should bring substantial benefits to all the partners.

“The new app is designed to increase awareness of the comprehensive range of leisure and activity facilities that are now readily available in the Sperrins. A key target for them will be the thousands of additional tourists expected to visit Northern Ireland this year for events surrounding the Titanic Festival in Belfast, the Irish Open in Portrush and during 2013 when Londonderry will be the UK City of Culture and will also host the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil.

“This is the type of initiative which the Innovation Voucher scheme is designed to encourage. The companies were able to link up with the South West College to develop what has turned out to be a very attractive and user-friendly mobile website that can be used for information and for booking facilities at the four businesses.”

Todd’s Leap Marketing Coordinator Gemma Begley, one of the project leads, said: “We see the app as an innovative way to increase our tourism and leisure revenue by harnessing the immense potential of the latest interactive technology.

“While we aim to continue to appeal to local families and corporate clients, a key objective for us will be to attract many more tourists from Belfast and Derry, especially over the next two years, to visit the Sperrins and to experience and enjoy the unique facilities and services that we offer.

“We are keen to ensure that Tyrone also benefits from tourism campaigns over the next few years and continues to appeal to visitors, from both home and abroad, well into the future.

“Increasing awareness and interest should help to increase sales at our four sites, in both short and long terms, and also in other parts of the Sperrins.

“The app also features a facility that enables us to alert existing and potential customers about special offers and new attractions.”

Catherine Morris, South West College’s Curriculum Project Officer in Digital Media, said: “It has been a great experience working with such innovative and forward thinking businesses, who are really taking a proactive approach to issues which the majority of leisure companies are facing. South West College is very proud to have completed the work on Northern Ireland’s first pooled Innovation Voucher, having worked on over 90 individual Vouchers through the Innotech Centre, in Cookstown.”