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The mobility network of European tourists: a longitudinal study and a comparison with geo-located Twitter data

Davide Provenzano (Department of Economics, Statistics and Business, Universita’ degli Studi di Palermo, Palermo, Italy)
Bartosz Hawelka (Department of Geoinformatics-Z_GIS, Universitat Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria)
Rodolfo Baggio (Master in Economics and Tourism, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy and at the National Research Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, Russia)

Tourism Review

ISSN: 1660-5373

Article publication date: 18 January 2018

Issue publication date: 15 February 2018




This paper aims to provide a network study of the structural and dynamical characteristics of tourism flows in Europe from 1995 to 2012.


Travels in Europe were studied by following the network science research paradigm and by focusing on the whole network of intra-European tourism destinations. Network analysis was used to map and reveal the pattern of connections between states as shaped by bilateral tourism flows. Data were provided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and the data were integrated with tourism data available from national statistical offices of the individual countries, when necessary.


For 2012, results obtained from the UNWTO record-based network were compared to geo-located Twitter data as a proxy of human mobility patterns. The present analysis provides evidence of a shift towards an increased homogeneity in the travelling preferences of European tourists, an acquired attitude of visitors to travel shorter distances and a tendency of mobility patterns to merge. Finally, the comparison between UNWTO and Twitter data shows a different spatial distribution of visitors. These results provide a useful insight for policymakers involved in tourism planning.


The contribution of this study is threefold. First, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the only study that focuses on the bilateral tourism flows between all countries falling, geographically or politically, under the definition of Europe. Second, evidence is provided of a shift towards a greater homogeneity in the travelling preferences of European tourists. Lastly, for the first time, this study provides a comparison between topological structure and bilateral mobility patterns of tourism flows, based on two different data-recording methods.



The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their positive and helpful suggestions. We also gratefully thank Susan Shean and Danilo Romeres for proofreading the manuscript, and Laura Maria Muñoz for providing us with the UNWTO tourism data.


Provenzano, D., Hawelka, B. and Baggio, R. (2018), "The mobility network of European tourists: a longitudinal study and a comparison with geo-located Twitter data", Tourism Review, Vol. 73 No. 1, pp. 28-43.



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