Visitor data is essential for decision-making, policy formulation, and monitoring of protected areas. In this context, the data on the temporal distribution of visitors is essential to characterize influx and seasonality, and even to measure the carrying capacity of a site. However, obtaining information from visitors often involves high costs and long production times. Moreover, traditional visitor data has a limited level of detail. New sources of data can provide valuable information regarding the timing of visits. In this study, we tested the use of geotagged data to infer the temporal distribution of visitors to 15 Spanish national parks, and we identified temporal patterns of the visits at three levels: monthly, weekly, and daily. By comparing official monthly visitor counts and geotagged photographs from Flickr, we observed that the number of monthly users who upload photos significantly reflects the number of monthly visitors. Furthermore, the weekly and daily distributions of the Flickr data provided additional information that could contribute to identifying the periods of highest visitor pressure, design measures to manage the concentration of visitors, and improve the overall visitor experience. The results obtained indicate the potential of new data sources for visitor monitoring in protected areas and to open opportunities for future research. Moreover, monitoring tourism in protected areas is crucial to ensure the sustainability of their resources and to protect their biodiversity.
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