Data and monitoring tools to measure tourism’s sustainability: some insights from the MED Sustainable Tourism Community’s projects

Monitoring tourism sustainability, despite its importance, is faced with some difficulties. There are some knowledge gaps of policy-making processes as well as data gaps on tourism that need to be bridged. Towards addressing such challenges, some of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community’s modular projects have developed tools and solutions that can be of particular usefulness in the Mediterranean context.

(Rome, 28 May 2019) “Robust, tourism policy-relevant information is lacking, undermining a good understanding of the local context. Where good information and data is accessible, this can provide an effective tool for galvanising local action, for reinforcing the performance of policies and programmes, or for driving investment and development projects ” as the OECD pointed out in a policy paper.

In fact, data and monitoring tools to measure tourism provide information that are, in turn, of importance to assess tourist destinations’ sustainability, competitiveness, carrying-capacities, impact on the local resources or relations with the local population. The lack thereof is consequently a challenge for tourism sustainability in general. Overall, the need to measure the impact of tourism is growing, inasmuch as sustainability becomes the target for tourism development. Data and knowledge-based management of tourist destinations provide the necessary indicators and monitoring tools to measure such impact.

This particular aspect will be the focus of a workshop that will be held in the framework of the Mediterranean Sustainable Tourism Convention 2019. The workshop will be dedicated to “data and knowledge-based management of tourist destinations”. It will feature, among others, the participation of two of the MED Sustainable Tourism Community’s projects that are ShapeTourism and Mitomed+.

The ShapeTourism project has developed a set of tools to assess the carrying capacities and the optimal level of pressures to maximise tourism revenue. These have been tested in cultural destinations, consistency with the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and the Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) approaches. Among other relevant tools that have been developed, the project contributed to the creation of a Smart Tourism Data System. This is helpful to arrange recommendations and scenarios, as well as to improve attractiveness and competitiveness of territorial assets.

The MitoMed+ project has started from the postulate that there is no real governance for tourism activities at a wider transnational level and environmental governante is in practice still very fragmented. The aim of this project is the improvement of public sustainable development policies, the development of joint planning tools and action plans and the transfer of practices in other MED and EU regions. It therefore develops observation and monitoring of tourism data indicators to measure the sustainability of tourism activities and their economic, social and environmental outcomes and impacts in several maritime and coastal tourism destinations. The development of such indicators is fundamental for a responsible management of tourist destinations. In decision-making processes, indicators describe and measure the reality of a specific area in terms of objective parameters, thus facilitating the understanding of a particular territory and of the necessary changes for tourism development. Tourism policy needs these information in order to be able to formulate evidence-based policies aimed at achieving the goal of sustainable destinations. All of which the MED Sustainable Tourism Community is thriving to develop.

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