“Tourist” is practically a dirty word these days. Tourists are loud. Tourists are rude. Tourists are ignorant. Tourists are poorly dressed, selfie stick-wielding clichés.
But a traveller… now that’s different. Travellers are curious, adventurous, in-the-know, and eager to immerse themselves in authentic local experiences. Travellers are what every over-edited Instagrammer purports to be. Travellers want deeper, more enriching experiences that leave them feeling physically challenged, mentally refreshed, professionally inspired, and spiritually fulfilled.
It’s a tall and somewhat bullshit order, but experiential travel is big business. There’s just one problem: how can you live like a local when most locals are loathe to spill the secrets of their favourite spots?
Computer scientists at ITMO University in St Petersburg, Russia, have developed a high-tech answer. They found a way to distinguish between Instagram users living in St. Petersburg and visiting tourists based on how they use social media, then developed an algorithm that mines the app’s publicly available data to create a “genuine” locals’ guide.
In order to remove tourists from the analysis, the scientists chose two months of the year with the least number of tourists in St. Petersburg (February and November) and collected all posts taken during that time. They then analysed the profiles of the users who created them, noting that tourists tended to take pictures in the centre of the city, while residents’ geotags were scattered throughout St. Petersburg.
The programmers also cross-referenced with official tourist statistics to further narrow down their local suspects, and excluded the top 15 tourist locations.
“The main idea behind our work is to give tourists insider information from local residents. Therefore Nevsky Prospect, Kazan cathedral, the Hermitage, Pulkovo airport and other well-known…