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Gateways for intra-national tourism flows: measured using two types of tracking technologies

Janika Raun (Department of Geography, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia)
Noam Shoval (Department of Geography, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel)
Margus Tiru (University of Tartu’s spin-off company Positium, Tartu, Estonia)

International Journal of Tourism Cities

ISSN: 2056-5607

Article publication date: 6 March 2020

Issue publication date: 9 June 2020




Understanding the essence of tourism flows is one of the fundamental undertakings of tourism geography research and a key issue behind effective destination management and development. However, thus far, few studies have analysed tourist movement on a national scale. This is due to the deficiency of spatially accurate data that can be used for recording tourists’ intra-national movements. This paper aims to illustrate the impact of major gateways on national tourism flows by using tracking data; and demonstrate and compare the use and applicability of tracking data on a national scale.


In this study, the authors analyse foreign tourists’ movements using two spatially and temporally precise tracking data sets – call detail records from passive mobile positioning data and GPS data from smartphones – in two countries, Estonia and Israel. The movements of international tourists entering the countries via main gateways are studied, with a focus on the impact of gateways on intra-national tourism flows.


The results clearly show the impact of gateways on the concentration of tourists. In the two respective countries, the critical mass of time was spent in close proximity to the gateway and, due to distance decay, a dramatic decrease was seen in visitation to areas that were distanced from both countries’ core areas.


To the best of authors’ knowledge, this is the first time when tourism flows attained from tracking data are compared on a national scale for two countries.



The authors dedicate this work to the late Prof. Rein Ahas, founder of the Mobility Lab, University of Tartu, in honour of his academic legacy in the field of mobile phone–based research. This study was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (Grant No. 1240/15), Estonian Research Council (Grant No. PRG306) and the Estonian Science Infrastructure Road Map project “Infotechnological Mobility Observatory”, and European Commission European Regional Development Fund. The authors wish to thank Positium and the mobile phone companies for kindly providing the phone data in Estonia.


Raun, J., Shoval, N. and Tiru, M. (2020), "Gateways for intra-national tourism flows: measured using two types of tracking technologies", International Journal of Tourism Cities, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 261-278.



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Copyright © 2020, International Tourism Studies Association

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