A Simple Tourism Model with Excel

While there is quite a bit of interest in several fields in ABMs as an approach to studying issues such as resilience, and thresholds, their complexity and technical nature is a significant barrier to their use. I’ve had a number of discussions with McGill professor Dr. Garry Peterson about alternate modeling approaches. One technology that he uses in both classes and in his publications is a simple Excel spreadsheet. I’m constantly amazed by the functionality that is included in Excel, and have even seen some simple ABMs built using it.

I’ve put together a simple TALC in Excel and would appreciate any feedback. Although I use the term TALC (tourism area life cycel, after Richard Butler’s seminal work), the only real similarity is that I’ve added a level of capacity to the model. I’m intending this as just a simple toy to facilitate thinking about tourism dynamics, thresholds and resilience. You can experiment with tourist growth rate, decay, threshold, and the effects of the threshold.

Let me know whether you think that this type of tool would be useful as a teaching or research aid? What other dynamics or interactions would be useful to incorporate into a simple model such as this?

You can download the spreadsheet here.

Update: This spreadsheet is one of the more frequently visited parts of my blog, so I’ve decided to put some more effort into it. I’m taking a look at some neat visualization strategies with Google Docs, so expect some changes and a new post very soon.

Simplified TALC

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Adaptative Destination Model

For quite a while now I’ve been trying to expand the types of adaptive behaviour included in TourSim. Currently the tourists display a type of adaptive behaviour, as they move to destinations that satisfy their preferences. In the Baddeck Hotel Development model, tourists would adapt to the development of a new hotel, as more tourists visited Baddeck because of this new type of accommodation.

To take this a bit further, what I wanted to include was destination development in terms of tourist capacity. Of course, this is the classic measure used in Butler’s Tourism Area Life Cycle, one of the most widely cited models in tourism research. What I’ve added to TourSim is a measure of destination capacity. If a destination attracts enough tourists per day to be within 80% of their capacity, they add 20% more capacity. This is process is triggered once a month. You can take a look at my new adaptation model and test this out (or head to the Tourism Scenarios tab for more information). I’ve included a toggle-type button that will turn adaptation on and off, so you can compare the two types of scenarios. As always, let me know what you think. I’ve already gotten some great feedback, but there is always room for more.

Baddeck Hotel Development Results

I’ve been putting together some sample results using the Baddeck Hotel Development scenario. I ran the model with the default range of accommodations, and then re-ran it with the “Add Hotel at Baddeck” button selected. You can experiment with this same scenario under the Tourism Scenarios tab. Below I’ve added a chart that shows the percentage change in tourist visitation per day (blue bar) and percentage change in income per day (green bar) at select destinations. This shows the difference between the base scenario and the add hotel scenario.

Percent Change

What is immediately clear in this chart is the dramatic effect on both visitation and income that adding hotel accommodations at Baddeck has. Also, you can see the effect that this new competition has had on neighboring destinations.

Big improvements!

I’ve been hard at work adding more realistic element to TourSim. Some of the highlights include:

1) Seasonality: Certain accommodation and activity types (like camping and boating) are now active only from May 1st to October 1st. All ferries now operate according to their schedules as well.

2) Adjustable length of stay: Slider bars allow the user to set the average length of stay for each of three types of tourist (domestic, American, and international). This lets you see the effect of greater retention of tourists compared to a high turnover. The default setting is 3.8 days per tourist.

3) Tourism growth rate: Again, slider bars let you increase or decrease the total numbers of tourists entering the model. The default settings create a scenario similar to 2007 values.

4) Model view choices and dynamic charts: Select one of six different destinations, and one of three different tourist types. You can also select provincial values to be shown in four charts (total visitation, visitation per day, total expenditures, and average expenditure per tourist).

5) Activity and Accommodation choice charts: dynamic pie charts show the percentage of tourists that choose a particular activity or accommodation. This selection changes depending on your destination selection.

6) Tourist routes: The routes that tourists follow grow dynamically as the model runs. You can also select a zoomed-in view of Cape Breton.

7) Hotel development at Baddeck: You now have a choice to run the model with the existing range of accommodations, or add a seasonal (may-october) hotel at Baddeck.

You can take a look at this most recent model by visiting the Tourism Scenarios section. Since this new version is substantially improved compared to the older versions, I’ve relegated those versions to an ‘archive’ section. Stay tuned for upcoming scenarios that focus on more detailed product development.

TourSim Start Page

New Scenario: Port of Entry Comparison Model

I’ve added a new scenario to the Tourism Scenarios section. This is the second model, and is a variation on my first model. This model, titled the “Port of Entry Destination Comparison Model”, allows you to compare the effects of varying tourist port of entry on the total visitation to Lunenburg, Baddeck, and Digby. I hope to implement a function to allow you to pick from a greater range of destinations in future versions of the model. Anyways, please check out the model.

I’m also looking for feedback from those involved with tourism planning, as to what types of scenarios could be captured with a tool such as this. If you are interested in helping, please visit the Surveys section of this website, and fill out a survey. The results of this survey will help guide my further development of this tool. Also, as always, I caution that these models are not intended to be predictions, just a way to experiment with different dynamics.

Developing Tourism in Nova Scotia: Opportunities and Risks

Tourism is an important contributor to the Nova Scotian economy. Estimates put the number of jobs created by tourism at around 33,000, and the dollar value to be over $1.3 Billion in 2004.

Developing new tourism attractions and accommodations is a process that can involve benefits and risks.  One way to reduce these risks to tourism development is through planning and anticipating certain scenarios.

Possible scenarios:

“What if ferry access to southern Nova Scotia is reduced?”

“What if we develop another major attraction in Nova Scotia?”

“Would raising awareness of our community attract more tourists?”

Making models can help us to answer these type of “what if” questions.  A model of a toursim system can help to sharpen our thinking about possible developments and strategies.  Models aren’t crystal balls that predict the future, but they can help us develop new ideas, and see where they might lead.

My name is Peter Johnson, and I am a Ph.D student in the department of Geography at McGill University Montreal. I work under the guidance of Dr. Renee Sieber.  I am conducting research on tourism planning and development in Nova Scotia, and how models can be used to provide planning support.  More specifically, I’m interested in the use of simulation modeling tools by those involved in the process of tourism planning (this can occur at the local, regional, provincial level).

I’ve made a prototype web-based model of some tourism dynamics in Nova Scotia.  This model presents a very simplified view of tourists travelling according to their accommodation and activity preferences and the supply at each destination.  This model is based on data from the Canadian Travel Survey, and the International Travel Survey, both produced by Statistics Canada.

To learn all about TourSim, and try out a scenario for yourself, click on Tutorial to learn the basics, and then head on to the Tourism Scenarios. I’ve assembled a scenario where you can change the percentage of tourists who enter Nova Scotia at each port of entry, looking at the effects of more flights to Halifax, more ferry service to Yarmouth, and many other dynamics.

Also, I encourage you to leave comments at the bottom of any page.

Many thanks,

Peter Johnson

Research on GIS, Open Data, and Mobile Technology, supervised by Peter A. Johnson at the University of Waterloo

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