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The work presented here highlights the efforts at Destination Canada to use user-generated online content to learn about tourist movement patterns, activity, and relationships among groups of connected destinations. Using a massive open-data source of photographic metadata from the Flickr photograph sharing platform, we extract time-stamps and geographic coordinates from photo metadata to analyze activity and movement patterns of international visitors to Canada.

This analysis allows us to protect privacy while identifying rich and interesting patterns of tourist activity at both national and urban scales. The data further allows us to generate constructed tourist itineraries using extracted spatio-temporal data for anonymized individual users.

In this presentation we highlight several use cases and applications that rely on this data that we believe may be useful for government organizations, destination marketing organizations, and the tourism industry in general: distribution of tourist activity across geographies, the differential spatial patterns of international tourists and locals, inter-provincial tourist movement, as well as intra-urban tourist movement networks and attraction clustering. We provide illustrative analysis and visualizations of our preliminary exploratory findings.

One of the key findings of this research is the broad scope of the potential application of spatio-temporal data sources for tourism research. We outline a methodology for the use of spatio-temporal data in tourism research and on the potential application of other spatio-temporal data sources for tourism research, as well as Destination Canada’s most recent work in this area to study urban tourist activity patterns.