Atout France

From Bonifacio to Lille: adventures of BRIC tourists in France

The most visited country in the world

Atout France is France's official tourism development agency. It is in charge of promoting a key asset of France: tourism. France is the first touristic destination worldwide, and the industry generates more than €40B per year. Among the 80M+ people who visit France every year, the proportion of tourists from the "BRIC" countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) have significantly increased over the past years, becoming a new and highly strategic source of visitors, with specific behaviors and needs. Atout France traditionally conduct surveys in the arrival area of France's main airports to collect data on touristic behavior, but outcomes from these studies often show multiple limitations. To deeper understand BRIC tourists and address their needs, Atout France asked us to perform a complementary analysis of their journey in France using publicly available data.

Map of the world with percentages from foreign countries tourists
Flags of foreign countries

Inferring journeys from image hosting services

The main challenge we faced was getting the data. Which data source would help us determine the places BRIC tourists visit? We found out that image hosting services such as Flickr or Picasa were pretty good proxys to infer most visited places: pictures metadata contains valuable information, particularly location information.

Flickr and Picasa logos

By analyzing 2,9M pictures from Flickr and other local image hosting services over a 2-year period, we were able to draw a detailed mapping of BRIC touristic flows in France, both in space (what are the most visited cities or monuments?) and in time (what is the seasonality of tourism from BRIC countries?). Multiple techniques were used to collect, clean and analyze the data. One of the most challenging task we had to perform was to determine the exact nationality of people posting pictures: machine learning techniques helped us solve this problem by inferring nationality from temporal density of pictures uploads.

A mosaïc of various landscapes

Unlocking unprecedented touristic patterns

Map of Paris

We helped Atout France by delivering directly actionable insights. Among the large set of patterns in data we uncovered, 3 were particularly insightful:

  • There are different maturity level among BRIC tourists journeys. Whereas Chinese and Indian tourists tend to stick to Paris and its world-famous monuments, Russian visitors are a bit more adventurous and are keen to explore French ski resorts, and are big fans of the French Riviera.
  • French regions have different levels of affinity with BRIC tourists, making them more or less interesting to shortlist to welcome foreign tourists, and for being promoted abroad.
  • Chinese tourists have a noticeably odd visit pattern. Due to low-cost flights between Beijing and German airports, these tourists come to Paris by bus from there, and often stop in Strasbourg, thus provoking large waves of Chinese citizens in those cities.