How to cite this study
Bhatt, P. and Pickering, C.M. 2022. Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Visitation in the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal: Insights from Geolocated Social Media Images. Mountain Research and Development 42(3): R16-R24.
This paper demonstrates how geolocated social media images can be used for monitoring tourism levels in remote mountains. Researchers identified visitor hotspots and seasonal variations using Flickr photos. Though this methodology has limitations, it serves as a useful approach to manage tourism in a remote, protected natural area where resources are limited.
This article is relevant to researchers, land managers, and others interested in measuring recreation using social media in mountainous areas, especially where there are limited resources to measure visitation. Researchers found the number of Flickr images are highly correlated with the monthly entry data from the park, illustrating the practicality of using Flickr for measuring visitation levels. However, the authors acknowledge that not all visitors share their images on Flickr, so visitation estimates will be underestimated if no additional adjustments are made.
This study is located in the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) in Nepal.
The study is located in Annapurna Conservation Area: it is the largest protected area in Nepal at 7629 km². The area encompasses Annapurna Sanctuary and is known for several trekking routes including the Annapurna Circuit. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, there were more than 100,000 domestic and international visitors annually.
The purpose of this study was to highlight tourism activity in protected mountainous areas as this information can be useful in informing land management groups and governments about the most effective places to build additional facilities and infrastructure while also assessing the carrying capacities of tourism hotspots. The research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. The primary author is associated with Griffith University, Queensland, Australia.
- There was a highly concentrated use of the ACA in major trekking trails and roads such as the main Annapurna Circuit and the Annapurna Base Camp in the south. There were no images in many parts of the northeast and west of ACA.
- The monthly patterns of visitation based on data from Flickr were similar to official statistics for the last five years, which demonstrated the correlations in visitation between social media and official data for outdoor recreational areas.
- The social media data was primarily from international visitors rather than Nepalese visitors in the ACA.
Geolocated images taken in the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal posted on Flickr were used for the study. The researchers used three time periods: pre-2007 (which was a period of Maoist insurgency and limited roads), 2008-2014 (which was identified as the post-insurgency and increased roads), and 2015-2020 (after a devastating blizzard and earthquake).The study limited photos to one photo user per day (PUD) to minimize bias from users posting multiple images of the same place and time. The most viewed images were determined to be the preferred popular destinations in the Annapurna Conservation Area. There were 25,955 images taken in ACA and posted to Flickr by 577 people, representing 2,631 visitor days (PUD) and 7,434 visitor hours.
Added to library on November 7, 2023