Researchers investigate cultural and recreational values of natural capital in the Wadden Sea by social media

15 June 2022 - Published by Annika Bostelmann
A massive amount of data piles up each day in social media. Tapping into this pool of information, researchers have now analysed social media data specifically connected to the entire Wadden Sea World Heritage destination.

The study assesses the importance of natural land- and seascapes for recreation and tourism transnationally. Conducted by the Waddenacademie in the framework of Interreg project PROWAD Link, “The cultural and recreational values of Natural Capital in the Wadden Sea” addresses the question of what attracts local people and visitors from further afield to the trilateral Wadden Sea region.

“We used the open-source data obtained from the social media platform Flickr”, explains co-author Chris Duinmeijer. “We then investigated the factors that tell us whether and how a landscape is appreciated and experienced by the visitor. We also looked at the differences of landscape appreciation between the islands of the three Wadden Sea states.” This is the first study using social media data in such a way on the Wadden Sea World Heritage destination.

The researchers found that the presence of the vast and open landscapes typical of the Wadden Sea region, such as dunes and beaches, had a positive effect on the number of photographs taken in a given area. This suggests that these types of landscapes generate value for the Wadden Sea region.

They also concluded that there are clear differences in what draws visitors to the different Wadden islands. Certain islands seemed to be more attractive due to their cultural heritage, where others are primarily visited for beach recreational opportunities.

Furthermore, the data showed differences in the percentage of pictures taken between seasons when comparing the islands. “When considering tourism strategies, identifying and comparing such patterns can help us determine the niche in which the islands operate”, explains Duinmeijer.

Additionally, the descriptive results highlighted where visitors to the islands originate from, and as such can be used to identify target groups for potential tourism marketing campaigns.

In conjunction with this report, an interactive online application was developed with which the trilateral Wadden Sea region can be explored digitally for landscape aspects that are important for tourism and recreation.