Towards a multidimensional view of tourist mobility patterns in cities: A mobile phone data perspective

Yang Xu, Jiaying Xue, Sangwon Park, Yang Yue

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The last decade has witnessed a wealth of studies on characterizing human mobility patterns using movement datasets. Such efforts have highlighted a few salient dimensions of individual travel behavior relevant to urban planning and policy analysis. Despite the fruitful research outcomes, most of the findings are drawn upon urban residents. The behavioral characteristics of other population groups, such as tourists, remain underexplored. In this study, we introduce an analytical framework to gain insights into tourist mobility patterns. By analyzing mobile phone trajectories of international travelers to three different cities in South Korea, we introduce nine mobility indicators to capture different facets of tourist travel behavior (e.g., duration of stay in a city, spatial extent of activities, location visited and trips conducted, and mobility diversity), and examine their statistical properties across cities. An eigendecomposition approach is then introduced to better understand the interdependency of these mobility indicators and inherent variations among individual travelers. Based on the eigendecomposition results, we further employ a dimension reduction technique to describe the key characteristics of each traveler. Since the mobile phone dataset captures the nationality of tourists, we use such information to quantify the behavioral heterogeneity of travelers across countries and regions. Finally, we select a few traveler groups with distinctive mobility patterns in each city and examine the spatial patterns of their activities. Substantial differences are observed among traveler groups in their spatial preferences. The implications for location recommendation and deployment of tourism services (e.g., transportation) are discussed. We hope the study brings a synergy between classic human mobility analysis and the emerging field of tourism big data. The framework can be applied or extended to compatible datasets to understand travel behavior of tourists, residents, and special population groups in cities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101593
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Activity space
  • Eigendecomposition
  • Mobile phone data
  • Tourist mobility
  • Travel behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecological Modelling
  • General Environmental Science
  • Urban Studies


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