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To monitor the process of sustainable development and to improve the planning process there is a need to have indicators that help to evaluate and co-ordinate sustainable development. Indicators have been identified for all three aspects of sustainable tourism development - ecological, economic and social. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) recently proposed the use of selected indicators for sustainable tourism. In order to be useful to tourism sector managers and administrators. The selected indicators are demand-driven; they respond to decision-makers’ need to know and they are practical for most nations or regions.

Indicators should show the real performance in destinations, for example:

"The ratio of environmentally friendly arrivals" and not the "existence of pick-up systems from airports and train stations" which may not be used by tourists.

The indicators should allow us to derive comparable values for all destinations. Northern or mountain destinations, for instance, need more energy for the heating of accommodation and facilities than sun or beach destinations. It would not make sense to measure only the amount of energy used - as the values depend on the circumstances of the destination. If we look at that part of total energy use, which comes from renewable resources, we have a valid indicator for all destinations (Box: red marked text with energy indicators below).

A draft set of indicators was identified by the VISIT initiative and tested in 10 destinations all over Europe. The testing results led to the core set of indicators (pop-up window). They are recommended as "priority indicators" for which data are available or relatively easy to provide by the destination.


Sustainable Tourism Indicators for Lake Balaton, Hungary

The study sponsored by the World Tourism Organization, which began in 1999 focusing on the Keszthely sub-region at the eastern end of the lake, adopted five criteria for indicators:

  • Relevance
  • Data availability
  • Comprehensibility and credibility
  • Comparability
  • Predictive ability

Indicators selected:

Water quality: Faecal coliform count at beaches; chlorophyll-A algae count; tourist complaints about water at beaches
Environmental education: Number of environmental modules offered by schools in the region in conjunction with a count of the number of students who receive the modules
Preservation of nature: Number of rare/endangered species
Overcrowding and congestion in the beach area: Persons per square metre in the peak period
Social impact: Ratio of tourists to locals in peak period
Image of the region: Level of satisfaction by locals
Seasonality: Tourist numbers in peak month
Variety of attractions: Percentage of service establishments open year round
Solid waste management: Percentage of households using official garbage removal (voucher purchase)
Consumer satisfaction: Based on exit questionnaire
Cleanliness of water and bushes: Number of toilets per tourist on beach in peak times
Cleanliness of restaurants: Number of tourists with reported salmonella poisoning from local restaurants and eating outlets
Crime: Number of crimes reported by non-residents/residents
Pricing: Monthly average price of rooms
Public access to beaches: Percentage of usable beach open to public
Protection of biological resources: Category of site protection using IUCN index; number of rare/endangered species; existence of an organized plan for region
Black market accommodation: Based on survey of visitors
Funding for protection: percentage of hot spot revenues that are dedicated to protection
Overall attitudes towards the destination: Based on visitor questionnaire


To assist in interpretation, three composite indicators were identified:

  • Carrying capacity index based on: accessible beach area (30%); number of official beds (20%); parking and road capacity (20%); change in index of local attitudes (30%)
  • Site stress index, for tourism ‘hot spots’, based on: number of tourists (30%); number of tourists per square metre (30%); local response (20%); damage measures (20%)
  • Destination attractivity index, based on: water quality (30%); water access (20%); variety of attractions (30%); visitor response (20%)



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