The Netherlands from above: use of satellite images for tourism and recreation

Our tourism experts Ben WielengaJasper Heslinga and Stefan Hartman recently published an article on the use of satellite images to understand the tourism and recreation sector. Last year, the article was published in a new edition of the Trend Report.

Application of satellite data in recreation and tourism

Satellite images are already available, but applications in the tourism and recreation sector are still limited. This article changes that by means of:

  • Exploration of the possibilities and impossibilities for the tourism and recreation sector
  • Mapping the research-technical and methodological challenges in the use of open source satellite data to determine crowding
  • Provide an overview of the potential use of satellite images for understanding tourism and recreation by looking at whether vehicles can be automatically counted


The research has yielded a suitable model that is trained to detect vehicles. Nevertheless, disturbances such as dark asphalt, shade or trees cause automatic counts on vehicles to contain inconsistencies. Training the system with images containing these characteristics may cause the system to include objects that are disturbed. This can result in more accurate automatic counts.

How to continue?

This experiment was part of the Data & Development Lab of CELTH, NBTC and CBS. In the implementation, ETFI worked closely with the Computer Vision & Data Science research group of NHL Stenden. The delivered model could also work on other datasets, for example the occupation of marinas or waterways. For example, DataFryslân has started to automatically detect boats in Friesland. Some recommendations of the research are:

  • To further develop the technology
  • Explore how the technology can be scaled up for other regions
  • To deepen the scope of possible applications.
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Jasper is an expert in tourism analytics and data science.