The Cycle of Tourism
As tourism by definition involves the movement of people from one
place to an other, it affects not only local sustainability, but
also sustainability at the regional or even global level. In the
past, this problem has not been covered sufficiently by tourism science
nor by tourism policies. No matter whether a journey is organised
independently or through commercial agents, the cycle of the tourism
activity can be divided into three stages: access and return travel,
stay and activities. Each of these three stages has a different action
radius and different effects.
- Travel forms part of each individual tourism cycle; its effects
belong to the supra-regional to global level.
- The stay at the destination is another defined and measurable
component of every tourism activity (either with overnight stay
or without, as in the case of day trips); its effects are primarily
- The activities at the destination differ from tourist
to tourist and depend on the offers and opportunities at the
destination, and their effects are again felt primarily at the
Access and return travel
Stay at the destination
Activities at the destination
Tourism transport, journey with different means of transport
Construction of accommodation
Maintenance and operation of accommodation
Supply with food and other goods
Disposal of waste
Construction of tourism facilities
Maintenance and operation of tourism facilities
Tourism activities linked to facilities
Tourism activities not needing special facilities
Main problems concerning tourism and sustainable development
The following key problems can be identified after careful analysis
of current trends in tourism:
- Tourism transport (access to destination
and return travel, local mobility in the destination): tourism
transport, especially air transport and the use of private
cars contribute increasingly to global warming and climate change
and to the depletion of oil resources. Emissions, noise and congestion
are also growing problems in tourism destinations and along
the big tourist routes. 90% of energy used in the tourism sector
is used for access and return travel. There is a growing trend
towards air travel and particularly short distance flights, towards
traffic intensive event tourism, larger destinations and unsustainable
vacation patterns (more travels per year and person, shorter
stays, longer distances, anti-cyclic activities, such as skiing
in summer or swimming in winter), which increases the impact
of tourism transport.
- Carrying capacity - land use, bio-diversity,
tourism activities: tourism is a heavy consumer of land area
and nature at the local level. Negative trends are increasing numbers
of secondary residences or tourism activities with intensive
use of nature (e.g. golf, skiing) or motorised activities in nature.
- Use of energy: tourism facilities are using more and more energy
for air conditioning, transport or in-door activities so that
the source of energy (renewable - non-renewable) is also becoming
a focus of interest.
- Use of water: some destinations, such as
islands or southern coastal destinations, have increasing problems
with the freshwater supply and there is even competition for
water between local economy (for example agriculture) and tourism.
Waste water may also become a problem for high seasonal mass tourism
- Solid waste management: waste is becoming
a major problem for tourism destinations and rural societies,
which may become overwhelmed and which do not have sufficient
capacity to cope with this particularly seasonal problem.
and cultural development: bad working conditions in tourism,
seasonal employment and high dependence on the tourism industry
may create a negative social climate, detrimental to the quality
of the entire destination.
- Economic development:
high dependence on the tourism sector, high seasonal
variation of tourism or a high percentage of day visitors
may also be harmful to the community and have negative
effects on the economic development.
governance: measures undertaken by local and regional
institutions may have created or contributed to environmental
problems through the strategies and initiatives they
Which type of indicators?
There are 100s of indicators available to monitor all relevant
issues in very detail. A short set of “key indicators” should
- with high efficiency with regard to sustainable tourism
development (particularly in the tourism sector)
- with high
relation to tourism quality (positive or negative)
- with high
impact on consumer perception
- which can be derived from
existing or easily accessible data (if some key figures are not
available, destinations are asked to give at least estimated
figures based an visitor surveys or regional expertise)
are highly reliable and permit comparison between different
These indicators should demonstrate the performance in destinations
instead of mere opportunities and potential not really
used by tourists, for example: “ratio of environmentally-friendly
arrivals”, and not only the “existence of pick-up systems
from airports and train stations” which most tourists
do not use.
The indicators shall allow to derive comparable values
for all destinations. Northern or alpine destinations,
for instance, need more energy for the heating of accommodation
and facilities than sun and beach destinations. It would
not make sense to measure only the amount of energy used – as
the values depend on the situation of the destination. But, if
we look at that part of total energy use which comes from
renewable resources, we have a valid indicator for all destinations.
Another example could be water: here the project suggests
to look only at the sustainable use of water and not at the total
amount of water used.
A draft set of indicators was identified and tested in 10
destinations: Riviera dei Gelsomini/Italy, Lillehammer/Norway,
Praesto Fjord/Denmark, Soumenlinna/Finland, Söderslätt/Sweden,
Comune di Ravenna/Italy, Werfenweng/Austria, Hallstatt/Austria,
Sirnitz/Austria and Lesachtal/Austria.
The testing results led to the core set of indicators below
(table 2). They are recommended as “priority indicators” for
which data are available or relatively easy to provide
by the destination.
Successful eco-labelling of tourism services is seen as a “driving” tool
to achieve the related sustainability and quality objectives (see
indicators A5 and A6).