The use of tracking technologies in tourism research: the first decade

Noam Shoval*, Rein Ahas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

197 Scopus citations


The past decade has witnessed dramatic growth in the implementation of various tracking technologies in tourism studies. A thorough review of literature reveals that 45 papers were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, comprising 40 percent of the papers published in the three leading journals on tourism scholarship. The rate of papers published annually has grown in recent years and it is clear that this novel field is further expanding. The majority of studies analyzed employed GPS, mobile positioning, Bluetooth tracking, geocoded social media, and photo databases. The studies ranged in geographical scope from individual attractions to global capacity. Based on our review, tourism research that uses tracking data can be divided into three categories: the first generation of studies focused on methodological dimensions and the potential of tracking data. The second generation made use of spatially and temporally rich data and uncovered new aspects of tourism. The third generation made use of the new data sources to challenge fundamental questions on tourism and consumer behavior. Digital tracking data have clear advantages – data are spatially and temporally precise, geographic and temporal coverage of datasets is broad, and tracking data can be supplemented using questionnaires, sensors, and other sources.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)587-606
Number of pages20
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 19 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • GPS
  • passive positioning
  • smartphones
  • tourism research
  • tourist mobility
  • tracking technologies


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