Geotagged Social Media Reveals Environmental Drivers of Tourism on Jeju Island, South Korea

Natural environments provide people with opportunities for recreation and tourism. The value of outdoor recreation provided by a place is difficult to quantify, but can be measured by the visitation rate to the place. Crowdsourced geographic information generated by mobile devices and cameras provides a proxy source of visitation rates to arbitrary areas or across landscapes. We test three sources of geotagged data – flickr photographs, twitter tweets, and mobile phone location records – and find strong correlations with traditional methods of counting visitors to attractions on Jeju Island, South Korea. We use all three data sources to measure continuous visitation rates across the Jeju Island landscape. Using linear regression, we relate attributes of the natural and built environment to the visitation rate, and we find tourists to be attracted to beaches, seacliffs, golf courses, and hiking trails. Geotagged social media can supplement costly and incomplete survey- based methods for measuring visitation and for valuing cultural ecosystem services.