Data and Innovation News

Fun Summer Viz About Vacations – Part 1

What sorts of things come to mind when you hear the word “summer”? Is it the beach? Grabbing a drink or dinner on a patio? Summer for me is a great time to travel and explore new places locally and internationally. Therefore, I decided that the beginning of the summer is the perfect time to visualize touristic trends in different countries and see which were the ones that enjoyed high popularity in recent years.

As a first step, I grabbed some data from the UNWTO website, and I started playing with it in Tableau Public. I thought that the standard line charts or even maps might not do justice if we really want to see trends that change over time in an interesting way, and that’s how I discovered bump charts that help in understanding rankings of any kind (number of tourists in our case) over a period of time. I chose to have a closer look at the top 12 countries in 2016 (the last year in the data set) and see what the trends were in the 10 years prior to that time and here’s the outcome.

It’s easy to notice France has been at the top during this entire period of time, and it’s very interesting to see the trends of countries like Turkey that moved pretty high in the ranking and then moved down sharply, or Mexico that managed to become popular again after a decline in its popularity between 2006 and 2013. Once I tried to add a lot more countries to the bump chart in Tableau Public I didn’t get a very satisfying outcome and I had to think of another way to visualize it.

Many of us probably do not remember our vacation stories from the 1990s (unless they were extraordinary and special). Nevertheless, I thought it could be interesting to see the trend in the number of tourists arriving in more countries over the entire timespan of the data set (1995-2016). Therefore, after researching a bit about data visualization tools and coming across this article, I turned to another tool which is open source and interesting to use for data journalism stories called RAW Graphs. I saw they had a nice format for a static bump chart that was inspired by Italian design (the tool was developed in Milan) and I uploaded a much bigger data set that contains all countries that had a significant number of tourists arriving (above the median number in the entire data set) and here’s the outcome.

Number of tourists arrivals by year – done with RAW Graphs

It seems like France has been at the top for quite a long time (not surprising, who wouldn’t want to visit Paris?) but it’s also interesting to see some other trends in countries such as Ukraine that got very popular at some point, as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I am pretty sure that doing the same type of visualization with a lower level of granularity (e.g. city) can help in seeing trends of overtourism as well, which is becoming a big thing in some major cities and regions around the world.

At this point, it’s clear that no matter what kind of tool you choose to use in order to create your visualization, bump charts are a great way to visualize ranks over time and to build a visually appealing data story around them. I would recommend using Tableau for those of you who want to build an interactive data story using small data sets in order to show the main trends and use RAW Grpahs for bigger data sets where the big picture and the artistic touch are more important than the interactivity.

In the next part of my fun summer visualization series, I’ll explore more tools and data sets so stay tuned and feel free to reach out to me if you have any ideas for a future post.