Changes in visits to green spaces due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Focusing on the proportion of repeat visitors and the distances between green spaces and visitors' places of residences

Urban For Urban Green. 2023 Feb:80:127828. doi: 10.1016/j.ufug.2022.127828. Epub 2023 Jan 2.


Through a quantitative approach, this study aimed to clarify the changes in the number of visitors and visits to green spaces according to green space type before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. We explored the changes in the proportion of repeat visitors and the distance between green spaces and visitors' places of residence. We used KDDI Location Analyzer, which performs novel analysis using mobile phone GPS and census data. The study area included 10 target sites (urban parks and nature trails in the backcountry) located in the Sapporo metropolitan area in Japan. The survey period included snow-free seasons from 2019 to 2021, and 2019 was considered the period "before the pandemic." The results revealed that the number of visits during the pandemic increased compared with those before the pandemic, except for those of urban parks near the city center. In 2020, the proportion of repeat visitors increased for all 10 target sites. In addition, since the outbreak of the pandemic, distances between all urban parks and visitors' residences decreased. The same trend was observed for nature trails in the backcountry close to the city center. These findings indicate a generally decreasing trend in the number of visits to green spaces as many people have been refraining from visiting the site since the outbreak of the pandemic. Contrastingly, the number of visits by repeat visitors who reside close to the target sites has increased in some cases, which compensated for the general decreases.

Keywords: COVID-19; Census data; Mobile phone big data; Nature trail in backcountry; Recreation; Urban park.