The Changes in Nature Visitation and the Potential of Mobile Big Data for Visitor Monitoring
workshop was held in Helsinki on 28.9.2023. We organized the workshop as part of the five-year
MOBICON research project (Mobile Big Data for Understanding People in Nature - Detecting shortand long-term changes and their implications for biodiversity conservation) funded by Kone
Foundation. The aim of the workshop was to collect expert opinions related to the changes in the
recreational use of nature, the monitoring needs related to the changing visitations, and to discuss
the possibilities of various new data sources to meet managerial information needs.

Eight experts from different organisations (Metsähallitus, City of Helsinki, Uusimaa Recreation Area
Association Uuvi and Suomen Latu r.y.) participated in the event. Prior to the workshop, the
participants had answered a survey about their experiences and information needs related to the
changing visitations. The discussion progressed from the results of the survey to more in-depth
discussions. Below we summarize the key results from the discussions.

The recreational use of nature was seen to be changing. Recreational use is increasing and its
temporal rhythms are changing. At the same time, the visitor base becomes more diverse because of
the general diversification of society and the fact that new user-groups have started to explore
nature. Activities and ways of being in nature are also diversifying.

Approaching the changes through four megatrends (social, environmental, political and
technological changes). The social and environmental drivers of change were seen as the most
important. social changes were identified to be related to the ageing of the population and the
diversification of nature visitors. Climate change, as an environmental factor, was identified as the
most important driver of change, impacting both nature but also human behaviour. Among the
political drivers of change, particularly the increasing polarisation of society emerged in the
discussion. In addition, political decisions relating to everyone's rights, biodiversity protection and
resources directed for the management of recreational areas were seen as important. Technological
changes were identified as important and this change taking place as part of the broader
technologization of society. On the one hand, this general technologization increases the
opportunities for access to and sharing of information. On the other hand, the increased
‘measurement culture’ also affects the amounts of recreational use, as people are aiming to reach
their kilometer or step targets.

The information needs of organisations were recognized to include 1) planning of management
actions, 2) justifying one's own activities for securing funding and 3) informing visitors. Information is
needed on visitor flows and their spatial and temporal distribution. In addition, information about
the visitors themselves was considered necessary, especially as the visitor base is becoming more
diverse. The workshop participants also expressed concern about those who do not visit recreational
areas: how get more information about them and the factors that limit nature visits.

Collecting visitor data was seen as expensive and time-consuming, which is why finding new kinds
of data sources has potential. Mobile data was evaluated as an interesting source of information and
its various aspects were discussed through a SWOT analysis. However, it was clear that in
operational use, information must be reliable and easily accessible and some doubts were raised on
the potential of mobile big data from this aspect.

The event was organised by Aina Brias Guinart, Matti Hästbacka, Tatu Leppämäki, Jussi Torkko and
Tuuli Toivonen. Johanna Eklund participated in the workshop from maternity leave. More
information about the event or research can be found on the project's website or by e-mail to the project's researchers: mobicon-project@helsinki.fi. The MOBICON project will operate from 2022 to
2026 and it is funded by Kone Foundation. Website:
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDigital Geography Lab, Helsingin yliopisto
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeNot Eligible

Fields of Science

  • 113 Computer and information sciences

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