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Department of Geography

Which Swiss Park is your favourite recreation destination?

You don’t know? That’s maybe because you have not visited all twenty of them (yet)? Fortunately, you might not need to use your precious free time to empirically determine your favourite park. A recent publication might offer a more efficient way, by providing you with some guidance from the crowd: A team of researchers from the Department of Geography created profiles of Swiss parks with user generated content for you to find the one you like.

  • Park Beverin

    Impressions of Park Beverin. (Images: Franziska Komossa)

  • Park Beverin

    Impressions of Park Beverin. (Images: Franziska Komossa)

  • Park Beverin

    Impressions of Park Beverin. (Images: Franziska Komossa)

The team consisting of Franziska Komossa, Daniela Mariño, Annina Michel, and Ross Purves developed comprehensible park profiles for protected areas in Switzerland using publicly available user-generated content from Flickr (; a common data source used to gain insights into spatial choices and preferences of people using parks. “Easily interpretable park profiles are not only handy for recreationists to find the right park for them. They offer landscape planners additional tools for developing strategies based on the diversity of recreational use”, says Franziska Komossa, post-doctoral researcher at the Geocomputation unit. 

Daniela Marino, PhD candidate at the Geocomputation unit adds: “Our study is especially relevant in the Swiss context, since even though some visitor monitoring has taken place in e.g., the Swiss National Park and UNESCO Biosphäre Entlebuch, there is a lack of publicly available data allowing comparison between Swiss parks.”

How do we compare parks?

The team created park profiles based on three dimensions to show how much diversity there is in the recreational use of parks.

  • Users: They retrieved information about visitation behaviour of users with regards to park use. Think about e.g., where visitors are from. Do they come from within or outside the park, are they locals or internationals?
  • Time: They retrieved information on when the photographs were taken to say which season or time of the week is more or less popular in the different parks. 
  • Space: How do recreationists experience the landscape they are recreating in? Do they prefer taking pictures of specific landscapes e.g., forests, and is this preference related to the actual proportion of that type of landscape in the specific park?

Are parks really used in different ways?

“Yes, they are”, says Annina Michel, group leader of Landscape and Conservation Social Sciences. “Recreational park use for example differs with regards to Switzerland's three distinct geographical regions: the Jura, the Central Plateau and Pre-Alps, and the Alps.”

Alpine parks are characterized by remoteness – or inversely, accessibility. Accessible places are likely to attract visitors close to home in their everyday lives, and we see evidence of this in the seasonal use of parks, with the nature discovery peri-urban park and two parks adjacent to the central plateau visited evenly irrespective of the seasons. Only one park, the remote Landschaftspark Binntal, was visited equally often on all days of the week. This suggests - rather than opportunistic day trips or weekend visits - longer vacations in this region, relying on the use of hotels and the permanent vacation homes. 

Ross Purves, professor of the Geocomputation unit emphasizes: “We need to be careful though. Our results for Landschaftspark Binntal are based on only 195 unique users which points out an important limitation of our work, and other approaches using social media for that matter. Users in general take relatively small numbers of images and long-time series are rare.”

Suggestion for park profiles for Jurapark Aargau, Parc naturel régional Gruyère Pays-d’Enhaut and Naturpark Beverin based on the three dimensions users, time and space.

Is analysing social media the way forward for future park monitoring? 

In broader terms, our study can serve as input for future recreation policies to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of protected areas and halt land degradation and biodiversity loss and is, therefore, in line with Sustainable Development Goal 15 of the United Nations. This is, however, only applicable wherever social media data are abundant. 

Social media data availability is not the same across the globe. Not all platforms are suitable for this type of analysis and, furthermore, not all provide e.g., geographical information. Some platforms are more popular than others and have different user groups. But most important is that such data are controlled by private companies, and access to them can disappear overnight. “Long term, a more sustainable and effective solution would be the use of participatory projects to create such profiles using Open Data and Citizen Science”, says Franziska Komossa. 


Komossa, F., Mariño, D., Michel, A. H., & Purves, R. S. (2023). Find the one you like! Profiling Swiss parks with user generated content. Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism, 100673.

Weiterführende Informationen


Franziska Komossa, Dr.
Department of Geography, UZH

Tel.: +41 44 63 55217