Visiting the UK City of Culture 2021
As UK City of Culture 2021, Coventry is gearing up for a stunning programme of events.
The once-upon-a-time national capital (1456-1459!), will host a diverse programme of community-based cultural exploration, alongside mainstream performances with visitors from all over the UK. And ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ will help plan your trip.
Back in December 2017, the news that one of the UK’s most diverse communities was to become ‘UK City of Culture 2021’ emerged. As with previous cities of culture the prestigious title continues to unite people, from within the West Midlands region and beyond.
In autumn of 2017 technology firm, ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST), submitted a European Regional Development Fund bid as part of the Coventry & Warwickshire Innovation Programme, to subsidise its development of a next generation travel management ecosystem for the region. YST secured £67,000 to subsidise research into privacy law, hi-tech sensors that can detect over-crowding, regional transport infrastructure and the accessibility needs of large and diverse audiences. The idea was to combine these elements in order to connect individuals visiting the city with transport and venue operators more efficiently, ultimately delivering a world-leading visitor experience.
Fast forward to August 2020 – an unprecedented global pandemic later.
Today’s news is about how best to stay safe whilst reopening the hospitality and cultural sectors. With everything to play for, West Midlands Combined Authority, including Transport for West Midlands and Coventry City Council are now building on YST’s early research and development, to help make Coventry 2021 a truly ‘smart’ showcase of cultural diversity.
Since its initial innovation funding and a further £1m development programme backed by Innovate UK, YST has been contracted to deliver a ‘Travel Assistant’ application that can be embedded into the fabric of City of Culture venues, their websites, transport operator and venue mobile apps. It will integrate transport operator services, recommend event itineraries and help manage the travel plans of residents and visitors during the Coventry City of Culture 2021 programme. The deal includes options to run to 2025, ensuring social, economic and environmental benefits are maintained way beyond the Travel Assistants initial deployment.
“The City of Culture Travel Assistant will notify people of all the best options for an amazing visit by their preferred method of communication, based on their tastes and specific travel needs.”, explains YST’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Steele.
“It captures visitors’ preferences without ever sharing their personal data and puts together recommendations that take into account service availability, crowding and traffic congestion across the region.”
The Travel Assistant deployment will promote active travel combined with SWIFT card integration for regional public transport, and the capability for visitors to request help from venue and transport operator staff as and when it is needed. Anonymised journey patterns will be accessible by transport planning teams across the region, enabling them to dynamically control recommended routes, rather than visitors just relying on standardised mobile apps to get around. Steele, who was previously involved in the development of Trainline.com adds, “It’s fantastic to see the Travel Assistant being used to showcase artistic endeavour and to power personalisation for visitors to the region.”
Jacob Gough, Production Director at Coventry City of Culture Trust, says, “The major events planned throughout our year as UK City of Culture will attract diverse audiences from the city and beyond. Effective travel planning is essential to help these audiences connect with our world-class programme. Working with ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ will help us make sure people travelling to, and around, Coventry will be able to do so both smartly and safely.”