Research article Special Issues

Mobile phone data and tourism statistics: a broken promise?

  • Received: 13 October 2020 Accepted: 12 January 2021 Published: 18 January 2021
  • JEL Codes: C8, C10, Z3

  • Mobile phone data represents an original source of information about the movements of individuals across territories and, in particular, of visitors. The systematic use of this data for statistical purposes is expected to provide several advantages: timeliness, deeper geographical and time granularity, and reduction of the statistical burden of respondents. To check whether that expectation is well placed, this paper reports a bibliometric analysis and a subsequent literature review of the recent contributions to the use of mobile phone data in quantifying the volume of tourist flows. The main findings show that the systematic exploitation of mobile phone data for producing tourism statistics is still limited in terms of countries (Estonia, Indonesia) and domain (international flows). Furthermore, the basic definitions of visitors stated by the EU Regulation 692/2011 are rarely applied on mobile phone data, and the population of visitors/tourists is often derived as a residual group after having identified the other people movements (residents, commuters). Both the literature review and a brief case study of the Metropolitan City of Florence show the main weaknesses of mobile phone data, which include costs, privacy restrictions, statistical issues of representativeness, among others. Finally, it is clear that mobile phone data cannot completely substitute current surveys on tourism flows because they do not include some noteworthy information concerning a tourist's motivations and a trip's characteristics.

    Citation: Laura Grassini, Gianni Dugheri. Mobile phone data and tourism statistics: a broken promise?[J]. National Accounting Review, 2021, 3(1): 50-68. doi: 10.3934/NAR.2021002

    Related Papers:

  • Mobile phone data represents an original source of information about the movements of individuals across territories and, in particular, of visitors. The systematic use of this data for statistical purposes is expected to provide several advantages: timeliness, deeper geographical and time granularity, and reduction of the statistical burden of respondents. To check whether that expectation is well placed, this paper reports a bibliometric analysis and a subsequent literature review of the recent contributions to the use of mobile phone data in quantifying the volume of tourist flows. The main findings show that the systematic exploitation of mobile phone data for producing tourism statistics is still limited in terms of countries (Estonia, Indonesia) and domain (international flows). Furthermore, the basic definitions of visitors stated by the EU Regulation 692/2011 are rarely applied on mobile phone data, and the population of visitors/tourists is often derived as a residual group after having identified the other people movements (residents, commuters). Both the literature review and a brief case study of the Metropolitan City of Florence show the main weaknesses of mobile phone data, which include costs, privacy restrictions, statistical issues of representativeness, among others. Finally, it is clear that mobile phone data cannot completely substitute current surveys on tourism flows because they do not include some noteworthy information concerning a tourist's motivations and a trip's characteristics.


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