A picture of a man with his smart phone in the hands

Tourism in the smartphone age

Authors: Michal Farkash, Yael Bulis, Amit Birenboim Tel Aviv University

Smartphones have changed the way we live and travel, and the use of mobile applications has become essential for travellers around the world. While many mobility apps used by tourists are general in their scope, there are some apps that were developed to adjust urban tourists’ needs. Lately, we completed a process of mapping and categorizing current available mobile applications that contribute to the decentralization of services and information, as well as the usage patterns and impact of these technologies on the behaviour of permanent and temporary populations. Findings suggest that many apps used by tourists have more similarities than differences.

The study identified 353 apps of two types; global apps that are used worldwide and local apps that are used in the four case study cities of SMARTDEST project (Barcelona, Amsterdam, Venice, Jerusalem). The apps were reviewed based on predefined criteria, including their relevance to travellers’ location choices and mobility flows in cities, and the global or local level of scope of usage (at least 500,000 users for global apps and 1,000 users for local apps). Most of the categories for classification and rating were numerically classifiable once, such as ‘how central are navigation services on the app’, ‘to what extent does the app encourages active mobility’, and ‘to what extent does the app contributes to overcrowding in cities’. The ranking was based on existing information regarding each app, from scientific papers to app user ratings and reviews, and was evaluated subjectively by two independent raters, who showed strong inter-rater reliability between them.

Using a factor analysis, we identified seven latent variables, including: (1) Destination Orientation; (2) Local Impact; (3) App’s Efficacy for Tourists; (4) Local Exploration & Interaction; (5) Social Influence; (6) Mobility Cost; (7) Developer. In the following step we performed a cluster analysis that identified five different categories of applications, including: (1) ‘Social Media’, (2) Communication & influence’` (3) ‘The Value of Local Know-How’, (4) ‘Easy Mobility & its Impact’ (5) ‘The Individual Navigator’, (6) ‘Get Around, Interact, Impact’, (7) ‘Super Traveller’. Each cluster has distinctive characteristics and has a different potential impact on choices made by tourists’, or locals everyday lives. In the future, we intend to perform a more in-depth investigation of the characteristics of each app cluster and their effectiveness., which will yield insights for both tourism managers at different levels and for application developers

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