New Algorithm Uses Instagram to Advise Tourists On Attractions

Researchers at the Russian ITMO University have developed a computer algorithm that uses Instagram posts to guide tourists to places most favored by locals. The new algorithm differs from most guides as it offers not only most famous or most visited places, but attractions that only locals know about.
There are over 700 million active Instagram users today; usually, people photograph memorable places or moments, sharing with others what they like. For this reason, it’s fair to say that the popularity of locations is represented on social media.
But, as the team explains, popular locations for tourists and locals differ, and what’s important is to understand how they differ. Usually, guides will offer a list of 10 to 15 attractions, and although these tend to be quite popular, locals usually know much more. By identifying locals’ favorite places, one can have a much more diverse and ultimately better tourist experience.
“The main idea behind our work is to give tourists insider information from residents,” said Ksenia Mukhina, the first author of the new paper.
And the new algorithm does just that. It automatically organizes popular locations according to 5 main categories: theaters and museums, restaurants and bars, bridges and streets, parks and other. So, using Instagram posts, in the “Theaters and Museums,” the algorithm offers the Ice Palace as the most popular venue, and in the “Streets and Bridges,” the Alexander Column at the Palace Square and the Fontanka river embankment.

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