Ash at CIID

Ashwin Rajan's blog while at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

Global Tourism – Interactive Visualization

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Project Context
The brief for this class project (with Shawn Allen of Stamen Design, SF) was to develop interactive data visualizations based on UN Data as available on On this website, the UN provides downloadable data in various ready-to-use formats on a wide variety of issues and themes – demographics, global indicators and statistics on commodities and trade, energy, population and gender, industries, children, health, tourism etc.

Choosing a data set
We were interested in several data sets to begin with, but common underlying themes seemed to dominate across our choices. In order to be able to think freely about the kinds of data that we would like to work with, we also explored data sets external to those provided by the UN. These included experimenting with data from (a streaming internet radio service) and with live feed of statistics describing developments on Second Life (a globally popular virtual world).

Finally, we decided to go with a data set that provided ‘Tourist Arrivals by Region of Origin’ for the years  2001-2005 from the UN database.

It is usually easy to find information about the most popular global tourist destinations. What is less understood is ‘who travels where’, or to put it in broader terms, which travelers place the world’s top tourist destinations at the top of the charts. Since we were focused from the  first on exploring the ‘supply side’ of the business, we decided to include only the world’s top twenty five tourist destinations (by revenue from tourism).

The Visualization

Global Tourists - Map View

Global Tourists - Map View

Global Tourists - Stack View

Global Tourists - Stack View

We chose to use the metaphor of a world map for this visualization to be able to simultaneously represent both a region of tourist origin as well those tourism hotspots most frequented by its travelers. The region of origin chosen is depicted by a color, while circles of the corresponding color represent the places visited by its native tourist population. The size of the circle indicates volume of tourist traffic.
Viewers can choose to see the visualization in either a ‘map’ (Image 01) or a ‘stack’ (Image 02) view. Stacks can further be organized by ‘Destination’ or ‘Number of Visitors’; switching between these two modes reveals interesting trends across the years.

Key Learnings from Visualization
The key learning that is evident from browsing the visualization is that global tourism is  still largely regional. Tourists from the Americas travel largely within the Americas, with some concentrated bursts of travelers to some parts of Europe. Europeans travel mostly within Europe, as do Asians and Africans within their own regions. If there are far-off exceptions to this overall trend, they are limited in number and usually to a very specific set of destinations depending on the region of origin.
Since data was only available for a six year period, we (predictably) saw no huge variations from year to year, especially in the map view. In the stack view however, one notices that competition for tourist revenue is fierce amongst the top twenty five destinations, indicated by the quite frequent shifts in place among the contenders under the fifth spot.


Written by Ashwin Rajan

January 11, 2009 at 5:56 pm

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