Tracking tourists’ travel with smartphone-based GPS technology: a methodological discussion

Anne Hardy, Sarah Hyslop, Kate Booth, Brady Robards, Jaganath Aryal, Ulrike Gretzel, Richard Eccleston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


This methodological paper discusses the implications of differing approaches for tracking tourists’ movement through destinations and then describes an innovative new method that utilises smartphone-based Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology and a mobile app to track tourists through regional destinations and attractions over an extended period. The method was developed by the Tasmanian Sensing Tourist Travel project team and is among the largest tracking studies ever conducted in tourism, both spatially and temporally and in terms of sample size. It tracked the movement of 472 tourists in real time via an app with three integrated surveys and GPS tracking. The research team was faced with multiple challenges given the ambitious nature of the project, including: app design, securing tracking hardware, forging partnerships with providers, participant recruitment, and the ethical and legal dimensions of both the tracking and the provision of mobile data as an incentive to participate. This paper discusses the lessons from the project and a holistic study design model to support continuous methodological progress in this growing research area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-274
Number of pages20
JournalInformation Technology & Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Apps
  • GPS tracking
  • Tasmania
  • Tourist behaviour
  • Tourist tracking

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