A unique app which allows visitors and local people to navigate their way around attractions, hospitality and leisure venues is to be piloted in Sunderland before being rolled out nationwide.

The Locale has been developed to benefit both businesses and users, providing real-time information about what bars, restaurants, cafes, retail and other cultural outlets have to offer.

The creators believe it is now going to be more valuable than ever to organisations, with its ability to give up to date information about social distancing, queues and promotional deals at venues across the city centre.

The Locale has been working closely with Sunderland BID to launch the app, with plans to then bring on board other North East towns and cities before growing it into a nationwide network.

Grant Thompson, founder of the company, said that a number of Sunderland businesses had already signed up, including The Engine Room and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens and he is excited about more businesses getting involved.

The Locale has been in development for a number of years but was reworked to factor in the impact of the “new normal” post Covid.

“What it allows us to do is to communicate on behalf of venues in real time so they are able to share their information,” he said.

“It will tell people when they are open, what the queues are like, how long they may have to wait and can also navigate customers towards the venues.

“It can showcase what a venue has to offer and any special information they want to share.

“It also gives businesses the opportunity to promote their Covid procedures so that customers will feel confident, comfortable and safe to visit.”

The app – which can be downloaded from the app store or via the website at https://thelocale.info/ – is currently free for both customers and businesses and anyone wanting to sign their venue up should contact info@thelocale.info

“It is acting as a digital clicker for the venues giving confidence to the public to know how many people are in the venues in real time.” said Grant.

“It’s also a fantastic way to get people to become familiar with ease of use technology such as augmented reality and we are integrating a track and trace system, bringing even more benefits to the businesses.

“We have had a great response so far, but we are hoping to encourage more Sunderland businesses to get on board with this free product.”

Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID said she was delighted The Locale was being piloted in the city.

“This is great opportunity for city centre businesses to be the first in the country to try an augmented reality app which can provide up to the minute information.

“We hope everyone will get behind it and sign up to be involved.”