Posted on March 7th, 2013

Back to School – GIS and Teaching Tourism

In a study by a researcher at the University of Tennessee, Rachel J.C. Chen used GIS to identify sites that could be developed for the tourism industry. Relying on past GIS research that established areas best suited for real estate investment and development, the author looked at how to best implement tourism planning strategies utilizing a GIS analysis.

monroe countyThe graphic above shows four cities in Monroe County and their proximity to common travel routes. Access to GSMNP requires travel on non-major thoroughfares for residents of these cities. The hope is that with GIS technology, more efficient travel routes can be built by the state and used by residents.

Chen looked at three aspects of tourism development with GIS: visitor flow management; facility inventory and resource use; and site assessment. Visitor flow management identifies principal tourist activity destinations. Facility inventory and resource use is intended to address environmental justice – specifically that tourism may not benefit all segments of a locale equally. Finally, site assessment uses GIS to calculate the potential environmental and cultural impacts from heavy-use areas.
The research also explores the benefits of using GIS in the classroom as it allows students to build a skill set for a potential future career. In the project that accompanied this research, graduate students looked at tourism-retail decision making, attraction allocation and spatial factors to demonstrate the value of using GIS in tourism planning decisions in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Besides helping visitors find their way around and to destinations more easily, GIS was also thought to be a worthwhile tool for generating business in the park area.

The class project and Chen’s research focused on Monroe County, Tennessee, an area comprised of more than 660 square miles, a third of which resides in the Cherokee National Forest. Located in this zone were four highly visited tourist destinations: the Cherohala Skyway, the Lost Sea, Fort Loudon State Park and the Sequoyah birthplace museum. Because Monroe County is easily accessible by air, water and land, it’s an excellent case study to consider the impacts of tourism as well as the strengths of GIS in identifying potential service problems and minimize visitor impact.

For future research, Chen will focus on the role of GIS in planning tourism development. Specifically, she hopes to identify tools to improve travel routes, the allocation of specific services and the evaluation of site accessibility.

Justin Harmon
Staff Writer

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