Analysing hiker movement patterns using GPS data: Implications for park management

E. Meijles, M. de Bakker, P. Groote, R. Barske

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64 Citations (Scopus)
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In natural areas, park management organisations need to cater for economic, environmental, recreation
and social demands and values. However, multifunctional land use also creates conflicts. Increased num-
bers of people using an area could exceed its ecological carrying capacity. The recreational quality of areas
could be negatively impacted by conflicts in recreational behaviour. Therefore, park managers require
spatio-temporal data on visitor flows, but there appears to be a shortage of suitable visitor data. If there
are data available, these often do not deliver the information required by managers and there is little
guidance on appropriate monitoring variables. This paper therefore combines user movement analysis
with environmental and ecological factors for natural resource management. Through a case study we
describe the entire working process from field data acquisition to usable park management information.
GPS and itinerary data from 138 visitors to the Drents-Friese Wold National Park (the Netherlands) were
collected to estimate visitor densities and distribution patterns within the park. Data acquisition is effi-
cient in the working process, but careful error handling is a time consuming but necessary part of it. We
introduce the definition of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ errors to make spatial analysis more flexible. We show that
walking speed, trip time and spatial distributions varied between park visitor groups. Classification
and Regression Tree (CART) analysis showed that factors such as the presence of marked trails, distance
to facilities but not land use (such as forest or arable land) explained visitor distributions. Patterns differ between respondent groups based on group size and composition, which is also true for itinerary variables such as walking speed and trip time. The combination of high resolution location data with itinerary
information from respondents provides a good impression of the different walking preferences of different respondent groups. We conclude therefore that combining GPS data with itinerary information is a useful tool in profiling different natural park visitors. This is useful information for park managers in
steering tourists and in catering for different visitor demands in natural parks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComputers, Environment and Urban Systems
Publication statusPublished - Sept-2014


  • GPS
  • movement
  • Recreation


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