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Tourist trail

20 November 2015

The Cathedral is a draw, but few go in.

New research shows that tourists go to various museums and cultural heritage, and walk around the outside. But they seldom go in.

In an Uppsala University project in summer 2014, researchers investigated what more than 100 Swedish tourists planned to do while visiting Uppsala and what they actually ended up doing. The tourist sector is relatively savvy about international visitors, but knows extremely little about Swedish tourists’ needs and wishes. Learning more about them is worthwhile, since they outnumber visitors from abroad by many to one.

The tourists answered a questionnaire about their plans and downloaded an app to their mobiles. Using the app, the researchers were then able to follow the tourists’ actual movements.

‘What’s interesting is that most walk round the outside of various buildings and cultural heritage but don’t go in. This applies to Carolina Rediviva, Museum Gustavianum, the Cathedral and the Castle,’ says Sabine Gebert Persson, a lecturer in marketing at the Department of Business Studies.

Still, there is interest in history and culture. Some tourists wrote that they were visiting Uppsala to see more of its history.

‘But these venues are not that visitor-friendly. Information to convey context in various ways, the kind that can boost interest, is often lacking. Tourists often need prior knowledge of what there is to see and why certain places are interesting,’ Gebert Persson says.

The research project of summer 2014 developed the methodology. Now work is proceeding to explore concrete ways of benefiting from the research methods and results.

‘The next stage is to document what tourists may be interested in and how to make venues more attractive,’ says Karin Ågren, a Department of Economic History researcher.

Gebert Persson adds: ‘We want to find various methods of conveying knowledge and arousing interest, via smartphones and so on.’

The research team behind the project has therefore embarked on cooperation with various visitor destinations and researchers in Uppsala, Italy, the UK, Belgium and Poland. They have jointly applied for EU research project funding, partly to develop different methods and test them on various types of user. It should then be possible to apply the methods in the tourist industry, for example, or for educational purposes.