A Smarter Way To Travel

Smart cards are a growing phenomenon, giving tourists easier and quicker access to major-city attractions and travel networks around the world. Founding Director Angus Rankine, looks at the systemå‘s benefits for customers and operators in the UK.

It would seem that everyone is taking the smart option these days, banks, retail loyalty schemes and telephone service providers embraced smart card technology sometime ago. Now, Transport for London in the UK, is set to introduce the smart card to Underground users in the coming months. A little more than three years ago however, specialist tourism marketers The Leisure Pass Group
, adapted the technology and launched the UK’s first smart card city pass, The London Pass. So the question to be asked is, “What is there to gain from having a smart card city pass within the tourism / leisure industry?” The answer is quite simple. A veritable plethora of marketing opportunities, which offer the involved operators global exposure throughout the world wide web, whilst at the same time taking part in the largest data capture of usage patterns of tourists, that the tourism industry has ever seen in the UK.

The concept behind any city pass is simple, with the aim being to offer visitors to the city the best in attractions, leisure pursuits, sightseeing, shopping and restaurant offers, all in one complete package. The Pass gets you free or discounted entrance into a variety of attractions and exhibitions, as well as travel in some cities, plus the opportunity to take advantage of some great value added offers such as discounts at theatres, shops and restaurants.

What sets a smart card city pass apart from the conventional tear out voucher booklet, is the smart chip that is contained in each pass.

Smart cards are much simpler to use, and each is coded with their own unique serial number. A customer turns up at the attractions of their choice, presents the pass to admissions staff, has it swiped through a smart card reading terminal and enters without any need for a cash transaction or a voucher. More than providing the customer with an easy and convenient way of exploring the city, a smart card city pass can help boost visitor numbers, and allows operators to gather valuable customer data for use in marketing activities.


Data capture and smart card technology.

Each participating venue is provided with a smart card reading terminal. This is connected to a dedicated phone line, which uploads all admissions information to a web based, central Oracle database.

The functional and technical specification of the smart card, the reader terminals and the back office system are all state-of-the-art technology.

The information stored on the smart chip, along with the reader’s capacity to configure and download that information to the Oracle database, provides users with essential marketing information, previously unavailable to the travel / leisure industry.
Information which can be extracted includes:

-  Visitor flow and volume

- Country of origin

- Statistical mapping

- Visitor tracking

- Relationship marketing

- Demographic profiling

- Success evaluation

- Accurate accounting
for payment and billing

It is also possible to disable the smart chip within a pass to prevent fraud due to lost or stolen passes.

The internet connection.

A number of city pass operators not only use the internet to promote their product, but have also developed the site into a successful sales avenue with each pass having its own dedicated URL, outlining how the pass works and the attractions and offers involved within that particular city.

Web sites are increasingly being utilised as a useful marketing tool, with the involved operators benefiting from the global reach of the medium. Information can be changed within minutes, so the most up to date and accurate information is at the fingertips of the consumer.

Benefits to involved operators.

In most cases, there is no capital investment required by operators wishing to be involved a smart card city pass scheme, rather a concessionary rate or associated benefit is offered. This reduces the pay back to venues with the marketing exposure gained more than compensating for the offered rate. Further benefits to operators involved include:

- Increased visitor flow

- Increased revenue

- Increased secondary spend

- Delivers immediate results

- Provides essential statistical information on visitor flow and movement

- Eliminates devaluation of attractions from discount offers

- Maximises exposure through a united marketing strategy

- Creates a level playing field with attractions offering free entry

- Provides constant market exposure

- Develops relationship-marketing techniques

- Compliments all existing marketing schemes

- Provides an additional marketing tool in a highly competitive market

- Encourages repeat and referral custom

Benefits to visitors.

A city smart card pass offers the consumer the best that the city has to offer in attractions, shopping and leisure pursuits, in one easy to use pass. Other benefits include:

- A simple, one-stop purchase

- Provides value for money, convenience and variety

- Offers unlimited use with repeat entry

- Assists holiday budgeting

- Offers user-friendly cash-less technology

- Offers pre-purchase in home country before departure

- Enhances visitor satisfaction


In the wake of September 11th and the decline in tourism around the world, the smart card technology employed by city pass operators will play a vital role in the future of tourism marketing. At no other point in time have operators, attractions and agents been fighting so hard for the tourist dollar. This database of tourist’s behavioural patterns will allow the involved operators to better target and structure their future marketing efforts, all in the hope of keeping one step ahead of their competitors.