Mobility Patterns of International Tourists: Implications for Responsible Urban Tourism

Up until the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid growth of tourism in popular urban destinations around the globe saw the effects of chronic overcrowding and the breaching of acceptable limits of change imposed on local communities. Overtourism became prominent, intensifying amplified calls for planning and development regimes that emphasize responsible and sustainable tourism growth. In Japan, the term “tourism pollution” emerged as a response to untrammeled growth in cities like Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. Understanding the mobility of international tourists in urban contexts is raised here as one way to come to terms with urban overcrowding, particularly in hotspots where popular attractions predominate. In examining international tourist mobility, we argue that spatial and temporal behaviors can be constructive toward the responsible planning and development of urban tourism. Japan’s second most populated city Osaka is the context for this research with GPS big data collected in partnership with one of the country’s foremost navigation app developers. American, Chinese, and South Korean tourist mobility patterns were observed with the evidence pointing out that overcrowding evident at iconic attractions was largely influenced by public transport networks in the city. Evidently, there were distinct differences between the three groups of tourists highlighting that spatio-temporal behavior varied according to the tourist’s country of origin. The findings from this research are instructive to urban tourism stakeholders including policy makers, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), and public transport providers and can help inform responsible and sustainable urban tourism planning and development.

Keywords: urban tourism; overtourism; tourist mobilities; tourism planning; responsible tourism; tourism pollution

Full Article (PDF)