Business Gateway support helps launch of ‘Covid’ friendly tourism app

Debi Webster and Alastair Cunningham, Reivers Road founders

AN INNOVATIVE GPS-triggered self-drive audio trail of the Scottish Borders has launched this week and is expected to attract tourists to the area as the sector reopens following lockdown.  

Founded by Debi Webster and Alastair Cunningham who have worked in the tourism industry for almost two decades, the app uses cutting-edge technology to deliver a virtual tour guide, allowing visitors to experience stories, history, drama and music as they explore the local area. 

The app is GPS activated and works offline, so users do not need a phone signal to experience the tour. Each trail starts in an easily accessible locations, such as car parks, and drivers follow the route displayed on screen. 

The first of six trails, which takes visitors from Hawick to Langholm taking in historic sites along the route including Hermitage Castle, will be launched in August following re-opening of the tourism sector and subsequent routes are expected to be rolled out over the following weeks.  

Initially frustrated by visitors seeing little of Scotland beyond the popular tourist destinations of Edinburgh, Inverness and Skye, the pair decided to do something to tempt more people down to the Borders.  

Debi Webster, co-founder of The Reivers Road, said: “After attending a talk about the North Coast 500, we were inspired by the idea of branding a region to give it a fresh identity. We then went onto design the driving routes that not only encourage visitors to explore the region, but also capture the history and heritage unique to the Borders – The Reivers Road was born.”  

Debi continued: “We recognise the measures that have been put in place to prevent transmission of coronavirus and the app itself lends itself to these recommendations, as it is perfectly designed for social distancing and allows people to see sites without leaving a car. It is easy to use, and the audio content is automatically triggered as you travel along the route. Alastair narrates most of the clips, so it is like having a real-life tour guide in your car. The audio also features stories, music and ballads, with actors bringing the Reivers to life.  

“It was really important that The Reivers Road included an element of fun for everyone, and we will build on the experience to eventually feature an augmented reality game for children with different activities, such as catching a sheep at each stop on the route.” 

Through Business Gateway the team was introduced to Dundee-based app developer Zudu. Debi said, “From the very beginning, Zudu had the foresight to develop additional elements, such as gamification, that would allow it to expand into new audiences and regions. It has been a mutually beneficial experience to work on this ground-breaking new concept for both the digital and tourism industries.”  

To help launch their ambitious project, Debi and Alastair approached Business Gateway for support with strategic planning, market research, funding and one-to-one business advice. The Reivers Road also engaged with DigitalBoost – Scotland’s national digital business skills training programme – to develop its digital, social media and SEO strategies.  

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer, Business Gateway National Unit, said: “In addition to business planning advice, Business Gateway has helped bring The Reivers Road to life with support from marketing experts. Exercises such as a brand personality test have been pivotal in developing a consistent marketing strategy for The Reivers Road going forward. 

“We know that people will want to take advantage of the sites on their doorstep due to the lockdown and travel restrictions that are still in place. This app will enable them to do just that in a safe, responsible way and encourage people to see what is available in the Scottish Borders.”   

Paula Ward, VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director, said: “This innovative new app is a great addition to the tourism offering in the Scottish Borders. Driving routes have been a huge success for Scotland’s visitor economy and the development of this exciting new app to launch The Reivers Road will help bring to life the region’s hidden gems and rich history and heritage. 

“Tourism is a force for good and has a part to play in not just providing jobs and economic benefits to every corner of Scotland but also bringing benefits to wellbeing and society. A recent £2.7million funding programme, which will be delivered by the South of Scotland Destination Alliance, will form a crucial part of the industry’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to create world class experiences, events and attractions to keep up with ever-changing consumer demands.” 

The Reivers Road app launches in August 2020 and will be available to purchase from the App Store, Google Play and his website. 

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