In a few years, our travel and on-site behaviors have changed greatly, and new behaviors have appeared. Current approaches, which oppose permanent residents and visitors, have in some cases become difficult to apply, and generate increasing uncertainties in current evaluation methods. We therefore believe it is important to first define the categories of people present on a site - not according to administrative classifications, as has always been done until now, but based on actual behavior.
As an example, let us look at dual residents. The dual-residence phenomenon has greatly developed over the past few years, mostly due to the economic power of senior citizens. Should these long-term tourists (several months per year), who for a certain period of time are indistinguishable from the local population, continue to be called tourists, though their consumer behavior is the same as that of a permanent resident?
The same is true of students, or people staying several days a week in one place for professional reasons, and the remaining days in their real family home. In which place should they be counted as permanent residents, and in which place tourists?
We will therefore move towards a new concept of what a “regular person” of a site is, as opposed to the "visitor" concept, which is occasional by definition. Naturally, the same person can be a regular of several sites.
Changes in mobility mean that for a growing number of people, the concept of resident is simply an administrative notion, whereas in fact they are "regulars" of several sites.
Moreover, in our search for a new methodology, we also sought to take account of the overall activity of a site. Therefore, the analysis of the presence or absence of the regular population of a site becomes a concept that is as important as that which deals with visitors. Remember: regulars that are present also consume and pay for activities, leisure, etc.
All these categories of people present on a site at a given time t - whether they are regulars, visitors or just passing through - become users, or "site consumers".
Meeting new analysis requirements
Local authorities in charge of tourism and tourist industry professionals currently feel the need for a tool that provides them with real-time information on the attendance of a site. They seek to have a more proactive attitude to the market.
However, currently generated reliable statistics cannot be made immediately available. Raw data requires a fair amount of time to be collected, processed and validated. While this information is useful for the long-term management of sites and the implementation of marketing policies, their deferred production does not satisfy short-term management requirements. Only results available in real time or near-real time can provide site managers with a major asset for optimizing the organization, management and promotion of their product.
Furthermore, these statistics concern the major traveler flows and stays of at least one night, but are not really able to take into account day visitors , except on very specific sites. Yet this day visitor is already an important piece of data in the tourism situation that must be available for use, if we are to explain it.
In addition, an IT tool was required that could be adapted to all territory types, from mountain sites to urban territories, from beaches to regions, and to every other possible territorial entity.
There is also one last factor to be taken into account when designing a new methodology: the need to be able to cluster the results of each site, in order to obtain information on increasingly large territorial scales.
Given all these factors, we searched for an indicator that could take all these new concepts into account, be representative of a change in population present in a territory, be already digitized, be adaptable to any geographic sector and be capable of providing real-time results.
The idea of using the data managed by cellular telephone operators, which are naturally representative of the “population present” concept, quickly established itself. Analysis of cellular telephony databases offers a new indicator that is independent, responsive and reliable.