Managing “hot spots” and tourist demand in East Lothian

As the COVID lockdown eased, East Lothian council experienced huge visitor numbers to its coastal beaches. Finding ways to manage car parking resource and signpost visitor to less busy places, developed into a solution that could help local businesses and other visitor attractions restart their businesses as tourists numbers continue to be high.

The challenge

As COVID travel regulations lifted across Scotland, the already busy beaches in East Lothian saw many more tourists looking to visit them. In the summer of 2020, East Lothian’s beaches had 4 million visits, compared to 1 million visits in 2019.

This led to full car parks, parking on verges, congested traffic and poor visitor and resident experiences. Many of these beaches are delicate preservation areas and were put under threat from the overcrowding. Meanwhile, many of East Lothian’s tourism businesses and attractions lacked ways to take advantage of the increased visitor numbers.

The immediate need was for a way to monitor ‘real time’ car park occupancy to help the Council manage overcrowding, direct visitors to alternatives, and preserve the coastal environment from being overwhelmed.

What we’re delivering

EDINA proposed capturing data from IoT sensors at car parks, and uploading this ‘near real time’ occupancy information into a dashboard to help East Lothian Council understand what was happening at car parks and manage their response and resources to actively manage and respond to demand.

The same car park ‘occupancy data’ will be sent to a visitor mobile app, to highlight where visitor ‘hot spots’ are, and direct tourists to other less busy beaches, as well as highlighting alternative tourist attractions nearby.

Skills we brought to the project

IoT sensor installation, data capture and presentation in dashboards, for management use, and incorporated into Esri infrastructure already used by East Lothian Council.

User friendly App design and presentation of geo referenced data to provide real time up date to visitors.

What’s Next?

EDINA will continue to work with East Lothian Council, to launch the service. Because we have developed this solution using software the Council already has licence to use, it could enable them to create any number of new innovative geospatial solutions. With access to historic data and other real time data, such as weather reports, it will be possible to forecast likely visitor peaks, and help East Lothian to anticipate and plan for these demands, in advance.