A new tool is set to be launched in time for the Easter break to help visitors to East Lothian’s coast avoid overcrowding and queues.

An innovative, new and practical APP using sensor data captured live from eleven of East Lothian Council’s coastal carparks, will allow users to check the ‘busyness’ of these beaches - before setting out or while travelling to a destination.

There is no doubt that East Lothian has some of the best beaches in Scotland. Several, such as Gullane and Yellowcraig, are extremely popular with visitors and locals alike, attracting large crowds. The downside of this is it puts pressure on the environment, facilities and services.  So much so that during the major surge in ‘staycationing’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, those responsible for the promotion and management of the coastline realised that action needed to be taken to protect fragile environments and to help those using the beaches to enjoy them in a safe and responsible manner.

The result is the Visit East Lothian APP, which has a traffic light system to help visitors and residents avoid busy hotspots.  Users simply search for their preferred parking location – green means quiet, amber means getting busy and red means very busy and it is recommended you park elsewhere.   The APP makes it easy to check other locations nearby and find a quieter spot.  

Users can see at a glance the main facilities and amenities at each beach as well as cafes or attractions in the local area they might also consider visiting.   East Lothian Council staff will have the ability to manually add and update information, so that those looking to visit the beach will have the most up to date and reliable intelligence on how busy the area is, and how and where to avoid adding to congestion, to help them and others have an enjoyable experience. 

The FREE APP will be available on Android Handsets from the Google Play Store and for Apple handsets from The Apple App Store. Further information on the actual launch date will be available soon.

The APP covers the East Lothian coastline from Longniddry to Skateraw and uses real time data provided by sensor and mapping technology developed by EDINA and the IoT innovation teams at the University of Edinburgh.   The project is at the forefront of Scotland’s Traveltech work enabling the use of technology in the tourism industry, in hospitality businesses and by visitors to maximise the travel experience.

But there is much more to the APP than alerting to the ‘busyness’ of coastal carparks!  East Lothian has some of the best food & drink in Scotland, is steeped in history and culture, is excellent for walking, cycling and other outdoor activities and has a great selection of visitor attractions.  Its welcoming towns and villages have a wide choice of independent shops where visitors can browse for everything from treats for picnics and buckets and spades to souvenirs and gifts to take home. Those planning a longer trip can search from the wide variety of accommodation in the area.

Councillor John McMillan, spokesperson for Economic Development said: "With over 40 miles of stunning coastline and 11 beaches with East Lothian Council operated coastal car parks, there is more than enough space for people to be able to visit and enjoy our wonderful coast in a safe and responsible way.  The APP also encourages visitors to explore the wider East Lothian offer and brings benefit to businesses. We are delighted to be working with the team at Edinburgh University on the innovative use of sensor technology and real time data in our destination marketing and management."

Joshua Ryan-Saha, Director Traveltech for Scotland added: “This project shows what data can do to help tourism in Scotland. Capturing and sharing live ‘busy-ness’ data with visitors to East Lothian’s beaches will mean that more people will be able to enjoy more of the coastline and its local businesses, more of the time, without places becoming too busy. This technology has the potential to help even more tourism destinations better manage their hotspots. It is just one of many data-driven initiatives at the University of Edinburgh, part of its commitment to the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which attracted £270m of government investment.”

Published: Friday, 11th March 2022