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Scientists use Flickr photos to assess value of natural tourist attractions -- ScienceDaily

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Scientists use Flickr photos to assess value of natural tourist
Date: October 21, 2013

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Source: Stanford University
Summary: Scientists use social media -- vacation photos from Flickr -- to study
how people use natural areas for tourism and recreation.

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Yellowstone vacation. Scientists are using vacation photos from crowd-sourced
social media to study how and when people use natural areas for tourism and
Credit: Liz Rauer

[Click to enlarge image]


cientists affiliated with the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University
have found a way to use photo-sharing site Flickr to measure where
and when people are using natural areas for recreation and tourism.
This information can help measure the benefits and value that these areas
provide to society.
Tourism is big industry, contributing $6 billion a year to the world economy, and it's
expected to grow to $10 billion over the next 10 years. While a great deal is known
about how human-made tourist destinations, such as Disneyland, contribute to local
economies, it has been hard to figure out the contribution of natural areas such as
parks and beaches.
Tapping into the big data collected by social media sites, researchers at the Natural
Capital Project utilized information from 1.4 million geo-tagged images in Flickr, and
the user profiles associated with them, to see where people were going and where
they were coming from. Comparing this information to data from on-site surveys at 836
recreational sites around the world, they found that the information from Flickr can
serve as a reliable indicator of how many people visit a tourist attraction each year and
when they are visiting. Their research was published Oct. 17 in Scientific Reports.
This is the first study to ground truth the use of social media data to predict these
visitation rates.
The research shows how "information from crowd-sourced social media is
revolutionizing the way we study people and understand their choices," said lead
author Spencer Wood.
"No one has been able to crack the problem of figuring out visitation rates and values
for tourism and recreation without on-site studies until now," said Anne Guerry, lead
scientist at the Natural Capital Project. Until now, researchers had to rely on local
surveys and head counts to get this type of visitation information. Using social media
to get ideas of where people are visiting, and where they are coming from, is faster,
less expensive and better for looking at changes over time and space.
This new approach provides the chance to clarify what attracts people to natural areas,
and to determine if changes in ecosystems lead to changes in visitation rates. It also
holds the promise of better natural area management because land-use planners, park
managers and government officials can use the information on visitation rates to better
manage their lands for the people who use them.

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Scientists use Flickr photos to assess value of natural tourist attractions -- ScienceDaily
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford University. The original
article was written by Elizabeth Rauer. Note: Materials may be edited for content and

Trending Topics

Journal Reference:
1. Spencer A. Wood, Anne D. Guerry, Jessica M. Silver, Martin Lacayo. Using social
media to quantify nature-based tourism and recreation. Scientific Reports,
2013; 3 DOI: 10.1038/srep02976


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Stanford University. "Scientists use Flickr photos to assess value of natural tourist
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Scientists use Flickr photos to assess value of natural tourist attractions -- ScienceDaily
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