The Importance of Measuring Tourism Impacts

Measuring tourism impacts is often perceived as a tedious and complicated task by some tourism professionals. Since tourism is integrated across numerous sectors, there are many aspects to consider when analyzing the results of tourism development. At the broadest level, tourism affects the economy through employment and investment. It also impacts the environment as many tourism destinations are in conservation areas, traveling requires creating carbon dioxide, and too many visitors can degrade natural wonders.

For these and many other reasons, measuring tourism impacts is actually one of most important practices in achieving successful sustainable tourism development. Here are some of the reasons behind its significance:

Measuring Tourism Impacts…

1. Helps in Conservation

Determining the economic, socio-cultural, and environmental impacts of tourism development will help in conservation because it can show the positive and negative effects.

Is tourism development helping in the protection and growth of wildlife? Is tourism development promoting the culture of indigenous peoples? Or is tourism development negatively exploiting the natural resources and cultures of the local population?

Measuring tourism impacts on our environment will help decision-makers in creating strategies that will support rather than harm conservation. Decision-makers can use the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) to evaluate the impact of tourism on the local community, cultural heritage, and the environment. From this evaluation, they can then establish if they should implement stronger controls, support other initiatives, or correct harmful practices.

The GSTC Partnership was initiated by the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Foundation, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to promote and implement universal sustainable tourism principles around the world.

2. Spurs Investment

Sustainable tourism development often begins with investment from the government and private sector. To rationalize these investments, the government and the private sector need numbers from the tourism sector.

How many jobs is tourism creating, both directly and indirectly? How much of the gross domestic product (GDP) is from tourism? What is the potential of tourism in creating more jobs and in increasing the country’s GDP?

By measuring these important tourism metrics, investors will get the information and encouragement that they need to continue supporting sustainable tourism development.

The UNWTO, in partnership with the International Labor Organization (ILO) recently released a report on the best practices of measuring the impact of tourism on employment. This could be a helpful resource for those who want to increase employment on their communities.

3. Educates Tourists

Last year, at least one billion tourists traveled across the globe. That means one billion opportunities to teach about how tourism affects the world and how people can have more positive impacts on communities and the environment.

How much of a tourist’s expenditure go to the local economy? How can tourists reduce negative economic impacts, especially on protected areas and heritage sites? How are tourists getting involved with preservation after visiting a destination?

By measuring tourism impacts and sharing results with tourists, we can help them support sustainable tourism development. Solimar also wrote about the importance of tourism in today’s economy given that it is one of the largest sectors in the world.

Measuring tourism impacts is therefore crucial for sustainable tourism development. Having the numbers and the research results with us is a powerful tool for our industry.

“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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