GPS, smartphones, and the future of tourism research

Noam Shoval, Michal Isaacson, Prem Chhetri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The ubiquitous access to positioning technology such as GPS and smartphones has provided a large volume of extremely accurate behavioral data in time and space, thus opening up new, previously unfeasible, lines of inquiry. These technologies have enhanced the capacity of visitors to access real-time data on their devices through a web browser to enable receiving and evaluating location based information while touring the destination. This chapter presents an overview of recent tourism research that has employed such technologies to track tourists and to map their spatial behavior within a tourist destination. The chapter begins with an introduction of GPS technology and its embedded capability to systematically collect real-time data of tourist mobility patterns. The smartphone revolution allowing researchers to record and analyze individuals’ psychological, physiological, and activity information based on self-report questionnaires and sensors information is presented. The obvious question that follows from here is the type of analytical platforms that allows data visualization, data mining, and behavioral modeling on “big data, " which were collected on these tracking devices. Ethical questions on tracking tourists are then discussed to highlight the issues on privacy of participants as well as the obligation to conform to certain moral and ethical principles. The chapter concludes that these new technologies will complement, add to, and enrich the findings of the more traditional research tools. However, the analysis of bigger samples over longer periods of time across a large geographic scale presents significant challenges for tourism researchers in the future.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Wiley Blackwell Companion to Tourism
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9781118474648
ISBN (Print)9781118474488
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • GPS
  • Smartphones
  • Spatial behavior
  • Visualization


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