In Eric Fischer’s representation of Las Vegas, the Strip appears as a large red boomerang.  Fischer’s “Locals and Tourists” Flickr set, which expands upon his Geotaggers’ World Atlas, is a fascinating window into where tourists and locals spend their time in more than one hundred cities around the world. Based on public Flickr and Picasa APIs, Fischer’s maps graphically represent the so-called “tourist bubbles” that geographers have long described in cities.  As he explains in his methodological statement, there is room for interpretation of these geocoded representations of picture-taking activity, but his analysis lines up very well with what we know about these cities.

In the case of Las Vegas, it suggests the relative popularity of the Strip versus Fremont Street, Vegas’s much older downtown casino district, which appears as a small crosshatch to the north of the “red boomerang.” It also confirms the extent to which some cities manage to cultivate multiple tourist centers while others lean heavily on a single concentration. The map of San Francisco, for instance, reveals tourist bubbles in all the expected places. While Chinatown, the subject of an essay by California State University-Fullerton professor Raymond W. Rast in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, appears as a red honeycomb, it shares tourist dollars with many other “red” spots, among then Alcatraz, Fishermen’s Wharf, the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, Cliff House, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, Union Square, Alamo Square, Haight-Ashbury, and Lombard Street. In fact, though, rather than a bubble, San Francisco seems more of a “tourist ring,” with tourists seemingly frequenting sites along the coast east of the Golden Gate Bridge to Fishermen’s Wharf, then southward through Chinatown to Market Street, then southwest and west along Market and in Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean, and finally north along the coast back to the Golden Gate Bridge.

While a sea of red dots cannot in itself prove how tourists move about a city, it gives a pretty good idea. It also suggests that wherever one finds a sea of blue dots might well become a tourist destination. To the possible chagrin of guardians of local culture, these maps might function much as airline magazines’ articles on discovering hidden treasures “off the beaten path” in heavily touristed cities.

Locals and Tourists #123 (GTWA #17): Las Vegas

Locals and Tourists #123 (GTWA #17): Las Vegas. By Eric Fischer on Flickr

Locals and Tourists #3 (GTWA #4): San Francisco

Locals and Tourists #3 (GTWA #4): San Francisco. By Eric Fischer on Flickr