Data and Innovation News

Fun Summer Viz About Vacations – Part 2

World Bank’s websiteThe growing popularity of the “Bar Chart Race” visualization since March this year made me waking up one morning and deciding that it’s time to jump on the bandwagon.  I’m up for the challenge of making one myself.  There were two things I needed to take into account:

  1. Which tool could help me accomplish my goal with the least amount of effort generating the best result?
  2. Which topic could be interesting to visualize given the current news and events happening in the world these days?

At first, I shopped around a little bit to see what kind of tools are available, and I came across a tool called Flourish that has the option of creating a bar chart race without coding  (yet, any knowledge in BI and data visualization tools would make it easier).  My next challenge was understanding what kind of data would be the best fit for the tool, and as soon as I saw the format that can be uploaded to Flourish in order to create bar chart race visualizations I recalled the data found on the World Bank’s website where most data sets contain data about KPIs from multiple countries over a period of time (usually the 1970s onward) so I knew where I would be headed to look for interesting data sets.

A week ago for the first time, I heard about a new environmental movement in Europe (particularly Sweeden) trying to persuade people to take the train instead of flying using the term flygskam which means “flight shame” in Sweedish. The issue made headlines in some major newspapers such as the UK Independent and Forbes, and it didn’t surprise me to learn about the movement since I conducted a research about the topic of greenhouse emissions in airports for my master’s thesis and I understand the impact air travel has on the atmosphere.
In addition, since I believe that most of us will get to our summer vacations by plane, I thought it could be an interesting summer-related project to visualize the number of air passengers by country over time and see which countries will have to work the most to reduce their greenhouse gas contribution from air travel.

In order to let you have a 360-degree view of the data, I created a three-slide data story that contains the following parts:

  1. The famous bar chart race where you’ll see how countries such as Ireland made it to the top due to the low cost airlines (e.g. Ryanair) registered in their territories, as well as countries that branded their flag carriers as bridges between different parts of the world such as Turkey (East Asia / Africa and Europe) , Spain (gateway to Latin America), and the United Arab Emirates (East Asia and Europe).  The graph can be filtered by clicking the continent.
  2. A slope chart, just to see a twenty-year comparison (1997 vs 2017) and see where each and every country is at in relation to other countries in absolute numbers (pay attention to the US and China).
  3. A chart showing the percentage of change in the number of air passengers between 1997 and 2017 in order to see the countries that grew the most in terms of air passengers flying in their airlines (pay attention to Qatar).  The graph can be filtered by using the drop-down menu.

Here’s the final outcome:

Based on the data visualization there’s no doubt it’s going to be a big challenge to try and reduce both greenhouse gas emissions from air travel as well as the number of air passengers in a world that lacks alternatives to airplanes for rapid long-distance travel and where several countries built themselves small aviation empires by connecting certain parts of the world to other regions (e.g. Spain, Turkey) or by operating major low-cost airlines that carry a significant volume of passengers (Ireland)

On the positive side, I had a lot of fun visualizing data in Flourish and I believe it can be very useful in data journalism projects that require a very specific type of visualization that can be hard to achieve using standard BI tools. In the meantime, I guess it’s time for us to start thinking about our summer vacations while keeping the environment in mind, at least as much as we can.