The Dnipro, Ukraine’s largest river, which bisects the capital Kyiv, used to swarm with river boats carrying passengers and tourists from one city to another, but the economic decline of the 1990s saw an end to these services. However, this year the State Agency of Tourism Development in Ukraine is exploring opportunities to bring fast, state-of-the-industrial-art hydrofoil boats back to ply old routes, and serve tourists in Kyiv on a sustainable basis.
As part of a socio-economic impact assessment in the wake of the outbreak of the pandemic, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine quizzed representatives of small- and medium-sized businesses from across Ukraine what they thought would be essential in a post-COVID recovery. Many of them highlighted the importance of the connections and travel – if few tourists can get to places, local hotels, taxi companies, restaurants, food suppliers and even car repair shops struggle. So supporting and developing domestic tourism is crucial to sustaining local economies and maintaining general wellbeing in communities.
At the same time, Ukraine has some of the largest talent pools and hotbeds of IT professionals and software engineers in the world – up to 200,000 of them. We at UNDP in Ukraine’s Accelerator Lab decided to do a set of small experiments that applied User Experience (UX) expertise from top-notch IT companies to better understand domestic tourism. First, we worked with the State Agency of Tourism Development in Ukraine to research the top pain points reported by domestic tourists, travelling either by public transport or in their own cars. This will give local communities a clear idea of what needs to be done.
The Accelerator Lab then engaged a group of User Experience researchers from the Ukrainian IT sector to collect feedback from passengers of a trial riverboat route organized by the State Agency of Tourism Development to Kaniv, a riverside city south of the Ukrainian capital. A few days after making a call for volunteers in the local UX communities, we received over 20 responses – all offering a different range of tools and expertise. We divided the volunteers into two groups to conduct research on both trial trips, on 11 and 12 September. As the day of the first trip approached, we decided to make everyone a researcher, and asked all passengers to fill out anonymised digital diaries, so researchers could read the reflections of over 70 passengers updated live throughout the day-long trips.
The digital diaries and the UX techniques applied by the team gave the State Agency of Tourism Development the first synthetized insights into passenger experience – knowledge they employed instantly to improve the services for the following day’s trip. After analysing the data from two days of research, the state agency received a digital Customer Journey Map, with clearly indicated action points to make such river boat trips and boat tourism in general match the expectations and needs of Ukrainian and international tourists.
In conclusion, here a few reflections from this experiment:
- We often wonder how user experiences on a certain webpage or application can be so perfect – in fact, the very same tools used to achieve this can be applied to complex development issues or public services;
- State and international organizations can actively engage UX professionals, as they can bring in new tools and techniques, and are strongly motivated to make a difference;
- Connecting the state sector with innovative tools from the private sector is a rewarding process, as both parties can learn and borrow from each other.