Victoria University of Wellington Masters student Katherine Findlay is one of a team of research scholars working with the Council on various projects over summer. Katherine, who is studying tourism management, will carry out the survey and at the same time investigate how gardens overseas make use of mobile applications, to see if this would be useful here.
The gardens are already full of people taking photographs and posting them online, but Wellington Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton’s Bush want to understand more about how garden visitors are using their mobile devices so they can develop apps to enhance the visitor experience.
Katherine says mobile apps are available at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in Britain and in botanic gardens in New York and Chicago, among others. She says they are being used by people to find their way around and thinks they could also be potentially useful for more information about the plant species or other special features of the gardens.
She says many visitors are missing a lot of what the gardens have to offer. They come up to Wellington Botanic Garden on the Cable Car, then follow the downhill route, missing many of the features that are off the main paths, such as the herb garden. An app could help them find their way off the beaten track.
Katherine plans to start her survey in Wellington Botanic Garden in early January, when the garden is full of cruise ship passengers and people attending Summer City events. In later January, she will survey visitors to Otari-Wilton’s Bush. She says it will be a quick survey that people can complete while they are in the gardens – and it won’t just be for people wandering around with smart phones and tablets. “Maybe people don't take their phone to the garden or don't use it while they're there. It's good to know that too.” She hopes to survey 200 people.
Otari-Wilton’s Bush manager Rewi Elliot wants visitors to have the best experience possible in the gardens. “If this can be supported through digital technology at botanic gardens in Wellington we will be leading the way nationally. It’s an exciting area to be moving into as it has the potential to increase our communication to visitors dramatically.”
Katherine will analyse the results of her survey in February and report the findings to the Council at the beginning of March.