Environmental Indicators in Measuring Tourism Impacts

The task of measuring tourism impacts is often conducted by identifying certain economic indicators, such as the contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or the overall employment, and measuring their base before tourism, after a tourism project begins, and monitoring them as the project progresses.

With sustainable tourism development, we aim to manage the consequences of tourism in such a way to maintain a balance between its economic, environmental, and socio-cultural impacts. Therefore, it is important to identify environmental and socio-cultural indicators to measure as well.

Solimar has compiled a list of possible indicators that you can use in evaluating and measuring tourism impacts particularly environmental ones. Although this list is not comprehensive, these indicators are the most commonly used and can guide you in your initial tourism planning.

Effect on Air, Water, and Soil Quality

Tourism relies heavily on natural resources, so its impact on the environment is crucial when measuring tourism impacts. Ideally, tourism should be able to improve the quality of air, water, and soil in a destination. Some example questions to consider when measuring this indicator:

  • Has tourism been able to maintain the quality of water in the destination?
  • In places that promote pristine and endless strips of beaches, how clear is the water from coliform bacteria contamination?
  • Is there sufficient drinking water for the communities in the destination?

Sometimes, tourism businesses use up most of the water in a local area because of the needs of the tourists, such as providing showers in hotels. This transfers resources from the locals to the tourists and sustainable tourism developers should be wary of this.

Effect on Conservation Goals

At Solimar, we believe that tourism should be able to enhance and improve the conservation efforts in a destination. When measuring tourism impacts on conservation, use these guide questions to help you:

  • Is tourism helping in protecting wildlife and other environmental resources?
  • Has the number of endangered species increased or decreased?
  • Does tourism support forest regeneration and marine conservation?

Effect on Waste

Many tourist establishments generate a relatively higher volume of waste compared to the locals’ waste. Well-implemented waste management strategies are crucial to prevent negative impacts on the environment such as high levels of dangerous bacteria. Consider:

  • How much solid waste is generated by tourism?
  • Is there a proper waste management system to prevent negative environmental impacts?
  • What is the ratio of the tourism establishments waste compared to the locals?

Measuring tourism impacts using these environmental indicators is helpful in sustainable tourism planning as a guide in designing strategies to achieve the positive side of these indicators. Of course, your indicators will need to be customized to your destination.

Solimar has a thorough understanding of the indicator measurement practices and worked with various clients including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the World Bank.

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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