Harnessing social media to understand tourist mobility: the role of information technology and big data

Jinyan Chen, Susanne Becken, Bela Stantic

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to examine key parameters of scholarly context and geographic focus and provide an assessment of theoretical underpinnings of studies in the field of social media and visitor mobility. This review also summarised the characteristics of social media data, including how data are collected from different social media platforms and their advantages and limitations. The stocktake of research in this field was completed by examining technologies and applied methods that supported different research questions. Design/methodology/approach: This literature review applied a mix of methods to conduct a literature review. This review analysed 82 journal articles on using social media to track visitors’ movements between 2014 and November 2020. The literature compared the different social media, discussed current applied theories, available technologies, analysed the current trend and provided advice for future directions. Findings: This review provides a state-of-the-art assessment of the research to date on tourist mobility analysed using social media data. The diversity of scales (with a dominant focus on the city-scale), platforms and methods highlight that this field is emerging, but it also reflects the complexity of the tourism phenomenon. This review identified a lack of theory in this field, and it points to ongoing challenges in ensuring appropriate use of data (e.g. differentiating travellers from residents) and the ethics surrounding them. Originality/value: The findings guide researchers, especially those with no computer science background, on the different types of approaches, data sources and methods available for tracking tourist mobility by harnessing social media. Depending on the particular research interest, different tools for processing and visualization are available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1219-1233
JournalTourism Review
Issue number4
Early online date31 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Big data
  • Information technology
  • Social media
  • Tourist mobility
  • Travel patterns
  • Visitor movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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