Community driven design for the tourism industry

Kara Prosser, Co-founder and Director Isobar Good

As we seek to protect our precious natural world, tourism industry bodies have a significant role to play to ensure its operators have a positive impact on the communities and environments they work within. This importance has been further highlighted recently in Australia where we have been devastated by floods in Queensland and bushfires in Tasmania that have both threatened the permanent loss of endangered species.

These challenges are complex and involve individuals, communities and organisations of all sizes working together to explore the entire system for change. With the tourism industry injecting over $50 billion to the Australian economy annually, working together to ensure its long-term sustainability is crucial for all Australian communities.

An example of this is Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ), who want to challenge perceptions around the impact of natural events on The Great Barrier Reef (namely coral bleaching and cyclones), and the knock on effect this has on the number of holiday cancellations. Tropical North Queensland is a thriving region, full of brilliant things to do, even at times of crisis. It’s one of the world’s most inspiring nature based destinations from the reef, the rainforest, the outback and the ancient cultures and passionate locals that inhabit and celebrate these areas.

With so much on offer, tourists struggle to navigate the often overwhelming amount of information available about the region, and the uncertainty of the impact of natural disasters. Isobar Good were brought on board to help bring this information to visitors in a more local, informative and engaging way.

For us, good design and intent is the key to creating sustainable and enduring communities, like those of Tropical North Queensland. Across every initiative we always ask ourselves, what is the ultimate value of our craft? What is the impact on the people it touches?

In this case, we wanted to deliver something that brought a connection between locals and tourists, driving increased tourism and local engagement within the region. Alongside TTNQ we created a chatbot — “Locals of Tropical North Queensland” that taps into insider local knowledge on the Great Barrier Reef, and soon to be wider region.

The chatbot was developed to encourage people to visit the region and squeeze as much local knowledge from experts as possible. In true Queensland style, it feels like you’re having a conversation with a local at the pub. Right now, it’s having a chat with Gareth Phillips a Marine Biologist and Reef Reach Owner and Tanya Murphy a Scuba diving instructor. Gareth explains that “The locals chatbot provides the opportunity for tourists to be informed on what to expect before they go to the reef. When you know more, you can appreciate the wonderful complexities of the world’s largest coral reef and how you can help protect it.”

To develop the bot to really sound like TNQ locals, we interviewed them to make sure we were getting in their shoes, and conveying their friendly, down to earth nature. We worked to a set of human centred design and agile delivery standards to ensure we were keeping the people using the bot part of the full product development process.

Feedback from TTNQ was exactly what we were looking for — with Chris Jahnsen Director, Digital & Content saying ‘it goes to show what can be done on small budgets and crazy timelines when you have the passion and talent on board to make it happen’. There’s nothing quite like local expertise, but that tailored local guidance has never been able to scale. This is actually a first for Australian Tourism — and Tourism Tropical North Queensland is the first in Australia to take this approach.

Isobar Good strives to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in partnership with our clients and the communities they work with. Developed in 2015, these goals have been formed by the UN to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, and ensure equal rights for all by 2030. Aligning this project to Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities and Goal 14, Life Below Water, we can measure and communicate local impact in a global language.

Isobar Good was founded on our work in the health and education space. It’s really exciting that we’re diversifying our projects to tackle environmental challenges that are so important for future generations both here in Australia and globally. Having launched just a year ago, we’re just at the beginning of our journey — so watch this space.

Kara Prosser is the co-founder and director of Isobar Good, which is Isobar Australia’s business division dedicated to social impact.

[1] Tourism Research Australia, Satellite Report