THEY may like to get away from it all to the Northern Ireland countryside, but the country’s thousands of camping and caravan enthusiasts as well as visiting tourists can now add a new website to their ‘essentials’ list.
Thanks to a new software product officially launched today and developed by a pioneering Belfast company, tourists from home and abroad can use 21st century technology to make their trips easy.
GoCampingNI.com is set to become as essential on a trip to the countryside as tents, pegs, pots and pans, allowing campers and caravanners to book their pitches in advance.
Those behind the initiative hope it could eventually double the number of campers and caravanners opting for staycations in Northern Ireland. More than 100,000 people hit the roads last year for the fresh air, contributing millions of pounds to the local economy.
The brainchild of Andrew Norris, a software graduate from Queen’s University, this is the first real-time,secure online booking system of its kind – whereby customers can browse multiple sites and dates – linking directly with the campsite owner’s reservation system.
The business is a spin-off from the Belfast software firm’s hugely popular CampManager product – launched with support from Invest NI in 2010 – which has established itself as a market-leading park management and online booking system with hundreds of quality sites and clients across the UK, Ireland and Europe.
Currently around a third of Northern Ireland’s best-known sites have listed with GoCampingNI.com, complete with thousands of impartial reviews, local ‘expert knowledge’ information sections covering local attractions, amenities, events’ guides and those often unheard of, off the beaten path, secret local treasures.
The development of GoCampingNI.com represents a significant investment sum and will create three new full and part-time programming jobs in Belfast.
27-year-old business-founder Andrew Norris said:
“It was while interrailing several years ago on a year out from Queen’s that I uncovered a gap in the marketplace for a professional camping, vacation planning and booking system. I discovered that the camping and caravanning industry as a whole operated with historic paper based booking systems which meant double bookings were rife. As a result of this chance discovery CampManager was born.
“Our new venture, GoCampingNI.com, utilises the CampManager platform and for the first time offers a simple, safe, 100% real-time secure booking system for sites in NI. This means a customer can browse many sites simultaneously, and book in absolute certainty, knowing that the site owner’s reservation system is updated ‘live’. This combination is unique and means that double bookings and administrative errors – which were the long-term weakness for the industry – are now a thing of the past.
“The new business has taken two and a half years to develop and our plan is to roll-it out across Ireland and the UK next season.”
Jillian McClelland, owner of Tullan’s Farm campsite in Coleraine welcomed the launch of GoCampingNI.com, saying it has the potential to put Northern Ireland on the international camping and caravanning map:
“This is tremendous news for the NI travel and leisure industry,” said Jillian.
“Up until now – tourists have really had to use an element of pot-luck and guesswork to pick quality sites in Northern Ireland. With GoCampingNI.com, there is a central portal, that will ensure both locals and tourists have the best choice of sites available and in a real-time booking format for the first time.”
Neil Somerville, from Clogher Valley Country Caravan Park added his vote of confidence:
“GoCampingNI.com is simple and easy to use. Crucially, it’s the only product that updates in real-time with site owners’ booking systems. We expect an increase in bookings through this user-friendly product. I’m convinced that it will boost our business and local tourism. It’s fantastic for local and visiting tourists.”
Noel and Roisin McNulty from Cookstown were among the first customers to use www.GoCampingNI.com:
“We only started camping as a family last year, so we loved the fact that we could check availability across multiple parks at once, allowing us to choose and book our favourite. We think it’s a great idea and was so easy to use.”
Any campsite can enrol with www.GoCampingNI.com by contacting the business direct on 02081 331 005.
The current Camping and Caravanning NI market generates in excess of £2M annually for the local economy.