How digital innovation is transforming the UK tourist experience

From Loch Ness to London Bridge: how digital innovation is transforming the UK tourist experience

The UK tourism industry is as strong and stable as it’s ever been. Worth an incredible £257bn[1] to the UK economy, tourism supports 3.8m jobs in the UK and makes up almost 10% of our GDP.

In October 2018, the country received 3.3 million visits from overseas residents[2], with holidaymakers spending £2bn in October alone. So what is it that makes Great Britain such a popular destination?

When it comes to must-see attractions, London remains top of the UK list (the British Museum, Tate Modern and Natural History Museum ranking among the top five[3] hotspots), with cities such as Edinburgh, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool following closely behind. Yet iconic landmarks and rolling countryside aside, UK tourism offers something beyond the bucket list.

From dining out to hitting the high street, global payment partnerships are making it easier for tourists from all over the world to spend using their preferred payment method. And for the more adventurous at heart, inventive apps designed to enrich all manner of trips are launching in their droves. We explore the innovative technology paving the way to offer a more seamless, fuss-free vacation making the UK not just a dream destination, but a home from home.

Payment innovation

Accepting payments via Alipay

As the UK retains its crown as a top destination for Chinese tourists, Visit Britain is predicting an influx of 483,000 visits from China in 2019 – up 43 per cent from 2017[4]. Providing a huge boost to the tourism industry, 93 per cent of Chinese tourists agree they would spend more in a store that accepts mobile payments. Enter Alipay: one of the world’s leading payment and lifestyle platform. Thanks to a new partnership with Barclaycard Payment Solutions, retailers in the UK are now able to accept payments via Alipay in-store and connect with Chinese tourists before they travel to the UK. This new agreement also enables retailers to benefit from being at the fingertips of hundreds of millions highly-engaged Alipay users, who will be able to search for outlets near their location to find out details such as opening hours, directions and whether there are any discounts available.

Dining with the Discover Global Network

From Singapore to Sweden, Discover®, Diners Club International® and affiliate network cards run on the Discover Global Network in 55 countries and are used by 105 million consumers worldwide[5].  Barclaycard Payment Solutions is supporting tourists in the UK to do exactly that: discover new and exciting experiences, with a universal payment method that is both familiar and convenient. With increased spending of 39 per cent compared to 2017, the popularity of cards issued by the Discover Global Network goes from strength to strength, as more UK merchants tap into this pool of cardholders.

Pay with UnionPay

UnionPay is another preferred method of payment for globetrotting tourists, particularly with visitors from China. In a recent partnership with Barclaycard, UnionPay is set to benefit the tourist shopping experience both in-store and online, with 110,000 of Barclaycard’s UK merchants soon able to accept this method of payment – from major retailers to transport providers. As some of the UK’s highest spenders – over £2,000 per person, per visit – Chinese visitor spend is triple the amount compared to the all-market visitor average.

UK start-ups shaking up the tourist sector

From keeping memoirs to helping tourists tailor their own adventures, tried-and-tested UK travel apps are further enriching the visitor experience – with that all-important personal touch. With apps such as Airbnb paving the way for the next big thing, start-up innovation combined with savvy payment acceptance is set to transform the UK getaway.

Kompas  Founded by students living abroad in 2015, exploration app Kompas offers unique city experiences across the UK and Germany. App users can plan their itineraries based on their interests, from Afternoon tea to hiking. From Chalk Farm to Bethnal Green, these handpicked hidden gems are a swipe away. – ‘Illuminating journeys’, is a pocket travel journal for visitors wishing to capture and diarise their experiences – and later re-live them with friends and family. Led by a former Lonely Planet writer, the app also acts as travel guide to help users navigate their way through new and exciting locations – from the Big Smoke to the Big Apple.

Much Better Adventures – An adventure holiday app, Much Better Adventures, puts visitors in touch with local guides to create an explorer holiday. For example, you can book a photography course on the Isle of Skye, or brave the Welsh 15 Peaks challenge. With other tips such as training for a trek and where to find the right hiking boots, you’ll be all set whatever your pursuit of choice.

Touriosity – For walking tours led by real local experts, Touriosity provides visitors with a bespoke experience (and where tour buses can’t go). Whether that’s ambling through palaces, getting to know the Camden neighbourhood, or exploring the residence of Sherlock Holmes, visitors can tailor their trips online with this London-based excursion app.

With overseas visitors to the UK predicted to reach nearly 39m[6] this year, the nation remains one of the world’s favourite holiday destinations. And when it comes to the tourist experience, the world appears to grow smaller as travel and payment innovation further evolve. With comfort and convenience further streamlining the process of overseas travel, the UK continues to advance in welcoming an influx of adventure-seekers from all corners.