Understanding tourists' spatial behaviour: GPS tracking as an aid to sustainable destination management

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 2013, 21 (4), pp. 580 - 595
Issue Date:
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The spatial behaviour of tourists within cities is not well understood, partly because of the complexities of cities as spaces and partly because few studies have addressed this phenomenon. This paper reports on collaborative research studies, conducted in conjunction with destination-management agencies in the Australian cities of Sydney and Melbourne. The studies used Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices to find out how various kinds of tourists moved around each city, supplemented by semi-structured interviews with the tourists to help explain their movement patterns. A total of 154 participant groups took part. Each study sought to provide information to destination-management agencies to help them improve aspects of the visitor's experience by improving wayfinding systems. Findings were analysed visually using a space syntax approach. Tourists walked between 10 and 35 km per day. Lack of knowledge of public transport systems and ticketing was a major constraint on public transport use. Melbourne's street pattern and its free city circle tram were found more user-friendly than Sydney's street pattern and public transport. The resulting visual maps provided destination managers with a valuable diagnostic tool; a range of new initiatives have been developed, including better conference visitor information, and training for information centre staff. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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