IoT sensors aid visitor management in Isle of Lewis tourist hotspots

Calanais sensor by Mark Waters

INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT) sensors are enhancing the management of tourist hotspots on the Isle of Lewis, with a pilot system installed at the historic Calanais Stones. Developed by CENSIS, Scotland’s innovation centre for IoT technologies, in collaboration with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the sensors predict busy periods, aiding local businesses.

The pilot, implemented ahead of expected growth in cruise tourism in 2024, involves IoT sensors at the Calanais Stones, a site attracting over 130,000 visitors annually. The sensors collect real-time data on visitor numbers, helping manage peaks and troughs throughout the day. The information is displayed on an app-based dashboard for monitoring and analysis by the Calanais team.

The Calanais 2025 project aims to optimise the visitor experience and support local businesses by leveraging technology to handle large crowds efficiently. As part of the initiative, the Deep Water Terminal, a £60 million infrastructure project, is set for completion next year to accommodate larger cruise ships, boosting tourism in the region.

Mark Davies, project manager of the Calanais 2025 project, emphasised the importance of managing visitor numbers to enhance the quality of the experience. Ally Longmuir, Business Development Manager at CENSIS, highlighted the technology’s potential to provide accurate real-time data for planning staffing, stock, and opening hours.

He said, “The Calanais Stones are a must-see for visitors to the island and while the site has coped with large visitor numbers, car parking is often limited. We have an opportunity to better manage the peaks and troughs throughout the day. Visitors to the Islands bring fantastic opportunities for the local community and businesses, but it is important that we ensure they have the best possible experience while here and we have the infrastructure and capacity to make their visit memorable.“

Ally Longmuir, business development manager at CENSIS, said: “The aim of this project is to help the Calanais team gain a better understanding of visitor numbers at one of its most popular attractions, enabling businesses to plan ahead for staffing, stock and opening hours. This technology can provide accurate real-time data that will undoubtedly support the booming tourism industry in the islands, and we’ve seen success from similar initiatives in the past involving sites on the West Highland Way. We hope to expand the initiative to cover additional sites that will paint a more detailed picture of how visitors are interacting with the Islands key heritage sites.”

John Mackenzie, Senior Development Manager Innovation at HIE, praised the project as a technology-driven innovation in the tourism sector, using data to understand and manage visitor numbers for a better overall experience.

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