News | Technology | OnlineData proves location of hotel influences tourist activitiesThis article was originally published onBy Karthick Prabu | October 31, 2013 Everybody knows that location is one of the key parameters for the hotel business. In certain cases, location is all that matters for a hotel (airport hotels for instance).However, a study by Hong Kong-based School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) reveals that hotel location has a significant impact on how tourists move around a destination.The research was conducted by Professor Bob McKercher of SHTM, graduate student Erica Ng and two co-authors.The researchers approached guests of four hotels in Hong Kong in the morning and asked them to carry a GPS logging device for the rest of the day, returning it to the front desk in the evening.Two of the hotels (both four-star rated) were located in Kowloon, one in the heart of the Nathan Road shopping area and one on the edge of the Tsim Sha Tsui tourism district. The remaining two were located on Hong Kong Island: a five-star hotel in the Central business district and a four-star hotel in the Causeway Bay shopping district.Below map shows the four regions (approx location) in red circles. The Kownloon region and Hong Kong Island / Causeway region are not drawn to scale, they are shown for better understanding. Click the map to view in high-resolution.Among the 557 tourists who participated in the study, most of them were from the West, with Australia and the UK the two most common source markets, aged 36-55, and visiting Hong Kong for four to five nights.Tourist movement patternsThe tourists tracked (using GPS loggers) spent most of their time in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, which has significant implications for tourism industry stakeholders.There were three distinct spatial patterns identified for all four hotels: The tourists tended to move mainly within the hotels’ immediate hinterlandsVictoria Harbour was a barrier to movement across to Kowloon for the tourists from the hotels on Hong Kong Island, and vice versa to a lesser extentIconic attractions such as the Peak and Stanley Market attracted a large share of visitors regardless of hotel proximityHotel location vs time of attraction visitThe time of day that tourists were most likely to visit specific attractions varied according to the hotel location.For example, tourists staying on Hong Kong Island were more likely to visit the Peak earlier in the day, and those on Kowloon side were more likely to visit it in the mid to late afternoon.Essentially, the nearer an attraction to the hotel, the earlier in the day that it was likely to be visited.Hotel location vs attraction engagementHotel location had a significant influence on how the tourists engaged with a destination.For example, the Kowloon-based participants who took shuttle buses to the Star Ferry Pier from Tsim Sha Tsui spent little time in the area, whereas those who were staying near Nathan Road had a much higher tendency to travel by foot up and down the length of Nathan Road and its adjacent street markets.Hotel location vs time spentThe research also found an impact of time spent at an attraction versus the attraction's distance from the hotel.Time spent at a attraction is inversely proportional to the distance of the attraction from hotel location. This is known as “distance decay” and is usually considered on a macro scale, such as in observations of international travel. The researchers show that distance decay also occurs at a micro level.In Kowloon, distance decay effect was observed, with demand peaks in the immediate surrounding of the hotel in the Nathan Road area.On Hong Kong Island, about 40% of the time that guests spent away from the five-star hotel in Central was restricted to a two-kilometre radius.The Causeway Bay guests also spent considerable time in proximity to their hotel.In a previous study, McKercher and a co-author have reported that close to a quarter of day-trips taken by independent, overnight pleasure tourists in Hong Kong involve journeys of less than 500 meter from the hotel.ConclusionUrban tourism industry would benefit greatly from information about how tourists move around the city. Urban tourism is recognised as a spatially selective activity, with nodes of tourist activity clustered unevenly throughout cities.These nodes can be focused around iconic attractions or shopping and business precincts, but are generally anchored by hotels, from which most tourism activity emanates.Emerging technologies have resolved both tourist movement data collection and analysis problems. These technologies include GPS loggers, which can track a tourist’s location for every second at every point on earth to within ten metres.Geographic information system software allows the quick and efficient analysis of that data.No understanding of urban tourist behaviour can be complete without considering the spatially concentrated activity around the hotel; places tourists are likely or unlikely to visit; volume of visitors at all but icon attractions; and diurnal visitation patterns.If they were to gather GPS data, tourism stakeholders such as hotels and destination marketing organisations would be able to gather a more comprehensive understanding of tourist movements through an entire destination region.Other insights that can be obtained include attractions that tourists visit, but they are not in the focus of marketing activities; and attractions that tourists do not visit, but that are promoted.NB: Pushpin image via Shutterstock.